Seniors and their families these days are so anxious to get a spot in a nursing home that they are signing away their rights to sue over poor nursing home care in such facilities, according to an Associated Press news report. This trend has sparked a debate between law makers, nursing home advocates and trial lawyers. Rest home officials say such agreements are a good way to settle disputes over issues like negligent nursing home care, while advocates for the rights of the abused believe that families should not give away their right to hold negligent nursing homes accountable in a court of law for substandard care.
The report gives examples of nursing home patients who have been pushed into a corner because they signed these waivers. A Senate panel, which is investigating the growing use of these waivers by nursing homes, says more than 100 lawsuits have been filed in the past five years by victims of nursing home abuse and negligence, challenging such contracts. Victims’ family members say they didn’t understand the implications of the agreements they entered into, sighting the extreme stress to find a nursing home for their loved ones as their reason for forfeiting their basic rights.
Many victims and their families believe that these waivers are increasingly becoming a shield that large corporations that own nursing homes hide behind. It is more profitable for nursing homes to cut staff and provide mediocre or substandard care than spend the money to be fully staffed by trained and qualified personnel.
It is understandable that nursing homes want to protect themselves from public lawsuits in our court system. Nursing homes do not want a public airing of complaints. They do not want a public record of what happened. They surly do not want a jury award against them publicized on the evening news. They do not want prospective patient’s families to be able to research lawsuits and judgments against the nursing home.
Are nursing homes more likely to provide the services that they contracted to perform if disputes about care are resolved in open public courts or in backroom, private mediations or arbitrations:
Law makers should make these unfair and inequitable agreements unenforceable so that victims and their families still retain their rights to take negligent nursing homes to open court proceedings that result in a public record.