North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Motion to Compel Arbitration in Nursing Home Negligence Case

Arbitration agreements are a major issue when it comes to nursing home facilities and how patients are able to resolve disputes with the facility. An arbitration agreement requires the parties to send any legal disputes through arbitration instead of the civil justice system. An arbitration proceeding involves a neutrally-selected arbitrator who hears evidence and determines the outcome of the litigation. The results are binding. If you or a loved one were required to sign an arbitration agreement involving a nursing home facility and are now seeking to hold the facility responsible for a personal injury, contact Maurer Law today to learn more about your rights from experienced Charlotte nursing home abuse lawyers.

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who fell when she was 81-years-old resulting in injuries that required surgery. She was then admitted to a rehab facility before being transferred to a long-term patient care facility. The plaintiff was her daughter who was required to sign a form before her mother could be admitted entitled “Business Contract” and which described her as “Responsible Party.” Her mother was listed as the “Resident.” According to the terms of the agreement, the Responsible Party was financially responsible for the Resident’s time at the center. It also contained a seven-part arbitration clause.

The plaintiff’s mother suffered several more falls including a fall that resulted in a broken hip necessitating surgery. She eventually died at the center. The plaintiff filed a personal injury complaint against the center listing negligence, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and a claim under North Carolina’s Statutory and Regulatory Rights Violations statute. The defendant responded with a motion to compel arbitration on the basis that the plaintiff agreed to arbitration when she signed the agreement as the responsible party. The trial court dismissed the motion to compel arbitration and granted dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim under the statute and claim for medical malpractice. The defendants appealed.

On review, the appellate court upheld the dismissal of the motion to compel arbitration. It concluded that, based on the terms of the agreement, the act of signing the agreement on behalf of the resident and agreeing to act as the responsible party did not entitle the responsible party to waive a resident’s right to trial. Under North Carolina law, the party seeking to enforce arbitration must show that the parties mutually agreed to arbitrate their disputes. Because the mother had not appointed her daughter as her attorney-in-fact, the daughter did not have legal authority to bind her mother to arbitration. The appellate court rejected the idea that the daughter’s willingness to sign the agreement and take financial responsibility did not assume that she also had authority to enter into an arbitration agreement. Matters requiring legal authority can only be executed by the individual or his or her power of attorney.

If you or someone you love is in a nursing home and suffering from abuse or neglect, you deserve an experienced and understanding attorney to help you fight for your rights. At Maurer Law, our team of Charlotte nursing home abuse lawyers offers a free consultation to help you learn about North Carolina’s nursing home abuse laws and whether you may be entitled to compensation. Call us today at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online to get started.

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