Mandatory Arbitration in Nursing Home Contracts Opposed

Mandatory arbitration agreements deprive citizens of their right to seek redress in the courts of this country. Many large businesses place these clauses in their consumer agreements as a requirement. It has been consistently shown that the arbitrations which flow from these clauses are skewed in favor of the large corporations. Simply put, arbitrators know that they will not continue to receive business from these companies if they rule against them.
Recently, public pressure has forced many credit card companies to remove these unfair clauses from their contracts. However, they remain in many business agreements which consumer sign every day.
The American Association for Justice won a small victory last month in the long war over mandatory arbitration. Congress banned defense contractors from including in their employment contracts any provisions that require arbitration. This legislation arose from the case of Jamie Leigh Jones, a former employee of defense contractor Kellogg Brown & Root who reported being raped by her coworkers in Iraq.
Now, the American Association for Justice is focusing on nursing homes. The group’s top lobbyist Linda Lipsen, the executive vice president for public affairs, was speaking at the American Association for Justice’s headquarters about its 2010 agenda in Congress. Asked whether it plans to fight mandatory arbitration broadly or industry-by-industry, Lipsen said the group wants Congress to pass the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 this year. The act would ban mandatory arbitration in all consumer and employment disputes. Lipsen singled out the nursing home industry as the likely centerpiece of the group’s push.
“When you bring your mother to the only nursing home in your area, and you’re looking at a 500-page document… you’re going to sign whatever it is you have to sign to get your mother into that home,” Lipsen said.
Bills to prohibit such provisions in nursing home contracts have been introduced in the House and Senate, but they did not receive votes in 2009. The Arbitration Fairness Act will protect all citizens’ right to access to the judicial system. It is sorely needed and we urge the Congress to pass it.

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