Cleveland Appeals Court Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Agreement Against Family of Deceased Nursing Home Patient

Ohio Nursing Home Guide

It is unknown how many of our vulnerable elderly fall victim to neglect or abuse each year since such actions are easily hidden from view and underreported. In fact, according to the National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA), 84 percent of abusive situations involving older adults go unreported or unrecognized.

    One way Cleveland-area nursing homes try to protect themselves against abuse and neglect lawsuits is by getting residents (or their families) to sign binding arbitration agreements. Such agreements take away a patient’s right to have their day in court. Instead, any and all claims against the nursing home is submitted to a private arbitrator in a proceeding that often does not afford plaintiffs the same due process rights as a normal civil trial.
    Nursing homes will aggressively enforce arbitration agreements. But this does not mean patients and their families need to accept arbitration without a fight. Many of these “agreements” in fact do not comply with the laws governing arbitration. And there are many cases where Ohio judges will not enforce a nursing home’s demand for arbitration based on the facts of a given situation.

    Court: Nonsignatories Cannot Bind Other Nonsignatories to Alleged Arbitration Requirement

    Here is a recent example from right here in Cleveland. In Miller v. Cardinal Care Management, Inc., an Ohio appeals court affirmed a trial court’s ruling denying a nursing home’s motion to enforce a purported arbitration agreement.
    This sad case involves a woman who died while under the care of the defendant nursing home. The deceased was admitted to the Saybrook Landing nursing home in December 2016. She died eight days later.
    The children of the deceased, including the executor of her estate, sued Saybrook Landing and several related parties, alleging their “substandard care” caused their mother’s death. In response, Saybrook Landing argued all of the children’s legal claims were subject to a binding arbitration agreement signed by the deceased during her admission. Based on this, Saybrook Landing and the other defendants asked the trial court to stay (suspend) the children’s lawsuit and compel them to submit their grievances to arbitration.
    But as the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals explained, the other defendants–mostly employees or agents of Saybrook Landing–were not parties to the arbitration agreement. Nor were the children of the deceased. While there are some cases where nonsignatories to an arbitration agreement may still be bound by its terms, the appeals court said this was not such a case. Indeed, it would be odd to allow one group of nonsignatories (the employees of Saybrook landing) to enforce an arbitration agreement another group of nonsignatories (the children).
    In addition, the appeals court said the estate of the deceased was also not bound by the agreement. The agreement said it applied to disputes arising from the “Nursing Facility Agreement” between Saybrook Landing and the deceased. Yet the defendants never provided the trial court with a copy of any such agreement. Nor could the defense even prove the deceased ever signed a Nursing Facility Agreement. Absent such evidence, there was no grounds for compelling arbitration against the deceased or her estate.

    Contact the Cleveland Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyers at Tittle & Perlmutter Today

    Nursing homes are quick to bully residents and their families with arbitration agreements. But you do not have to stand for this. An experienced Cleveland nursing home abuse and neglect attorney can help you assert your rights and make every effort to give you your day in court. Contact Tittle & Perlmutter today at (216) 308-1522 to speak with a lawyer today.

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