WASHINGTON – March 05, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today introduced the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act, which protects the dispute resolution options for residents of nursing homes. The measure, originally introduced in the 110th Congress, is in response to the increasing practice of nursing home facilities requiring patients to agree to arbitration as the sole vehicle for dispute resolution prior to admittance to a facility.
“Nursing home residents and their families deserve peace of mind when choosing assisted living facilities,” Martinez said. “This legislation will ensure the rights of every individual and family as they decide on which facility will meet their needs and offer the best quality care available. It’s our job as lawmakers to ensure the rights of all of our citizens are protected, especially in the event of abuse or neglect.”
“This legislation is a narrowly targeted measure that protects nursing home residents, one of our nation’s most vulnerable populations, from losing the right to hold nursing homes accountable in court for negligent or abusive care,” said Senator Kohl. “Our bill will ensure that families have legal options when resolving disputes that can have far reaching consequences.”
Congress enacted the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) in 1925 with the goal of allowing parties an alternative forum to efficiently resolve business disputes. Over time, arbitration has expanded beyond commercial disputes and into many consumer settings. Today, nursing homes often require patients to sign mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses upon admittance to their facility. This trend is an unwarranted intrusion into a vulnerable population’s right to access the civil justice system for redress of their potential claims.
The Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act reflects the FAA’s original intent by requiring that agreements to arbitrate nursing home disputes be made after the dispute has arisen. The Act does not prohibit arbitration in nursing home disputes, but it prevents a nursing home corporation with greater bargaining power from forcing residents and their families into arbitration through a non-negotiable contract entered into prior to the dispute. It will ensure that arbitration remains a voluntary forum to resolve disputes involving nursing homes and patients.