Nursing Home Residents Free to Utilize Judicial System
Saturday, October, 15, 2016
The Florida Supreme Court’s recent ruling that a nursing home patient cannot be forced to use arbitration to settle disputes means families and patients will be able to use the court system to settle disputes with nursing homes. This applies to patients who did not sign the contracts that demand mandatory arbitration.
The ruling came after Juan Mendez Sr. and his son brought a lawsuit against the Hampton Court Nursing in Miami. Mendez Sr. developed an eye infection that resulted in the removal of his left eye during his stay at the nursing home in 2011. Mendez Jr. had signed the contract with the nursing home, but the court determined there was no evidence Mendez Sr. had authorized him to do so.
The court stated in its ruling “If we will not enforce a contract when a party agrees under threat or duress, then we should not enforce a contract in the absence of the party's agreement altogether.” The opinion further explained that because the Mendez estate was not suing to enforce the contract, but over negligence and statutory violations, the justices would not force Mendez to comply with the contract.
This ruling comes amidst ongoing debate throughout the Florida state court system over the enforceability of arbitration provisions in contracts not signed by an individual most affected. Several appeals courts have already weighed in with varying opinions. There were two justices who dissented in the Mendez case, stating it “obliterates longstanding Florida contract law.” The debate is part of the growing concern over nursing home contracts that have been under fire across the country in recent months.