Nursing home arbitration agreements force consumers to 'sign away legal rights,' trial lawyers argue

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Arbitration agreements in long-term care contracts are harming consumers and eroding the U.S. civil justice system, according to a prominent association of trial lawyers.

When people sign a contract with a forced arbitration provision, they are often unwittingly giving up their right to a jury trial and other legal processes related to dispute resolution. This creates a "David vs. Goliath" situation in which the consumer is David -- and, in this version of the story, David rarely wins when conflicts arise with the Goliaths of large nursing home companies or other corporations. This is according to a recently released report from the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America).

Proponents of arbitration agreements say they are a safeguard against frivolous lawsuits, but the practice has generated controversy. The AAJ strenuously objects in its report.

"If you or a family member must enter a long-term care facility, you have little choice about agreeing to a forced arbitration clause at admission," the report states. 

It describes some cases of alleged nursing home negligence and abuse that have been thrown out because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Federal Arbitration Act prevents states from implementing policies such as excluding wrongful death claims from forced arbitration.

The report harshly criticizes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for pushing a pro-arbitration agenda. It registers firm support for a proposed measure in Congress that would stop some of the practices that the AAJ characterizes as abusive.

Click here to access the complete document. 

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