Investigation slams arbitration agreements

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More than 100 lawsuits against nursing homes have been forced into arbitration in the past four years, according to a new investigative report from the New York Times.

The two-part report, titled Beware the Fine Print, slams arbitration agreements used by car dealerships, credit cards and other industries, but takes particular aim at nursing homes in its second installment.

Data compiled by the New York Times found more than 100 wrongful death, medical malpractice and elder abuse cases against nursing homes were sent into arbitration between 2010 and 2014.

The report also shows the amount of lawsuits forced into arbitration across all industries has been on a steady rise over the past decade, going from less than 100 cases in 2005 to more than 250 in 2014. In total, 1,704 federal class actions filed between 2005 and 2014 included a motion to compel arbitration.

The report cites specific nursing home cases, including one out of Alabama where a deceased resident was found to have more than 20 times the recommended amount of diabetes medication in her blood. The case went to arbitration, where the arbitrator ruled in favor of the facility.

The lawyer for the resident's family told the newspaper that “a jury would not have let [the ruling] happen.”

“It was only because of forced arbitration that the nursing home got away with this,” he said.

The report also cites a September letter from 34 senators to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services calling for pre-dispute arbitration clauses to be banned from nursing home admission contracts.