Arbitration in ALFs

The New York Times had a great article on the scourge of mandatory arbitration clauses in admission paperwork for assisted living facilities. Although arbitration is ubiquitous in modern life, it is unfair in the health care setting. When residents sign these agreements hidden among the dozens of admission pages, the facility tricks them into waiving constitutional rights to a jury trial.

Experts and advocates for residents, families and consumers oppose mandatory arbitration. Corporations should not be able to take away your constitutional right to a jury trial as they collect taxpayer funds to provide services to elderly people. However, the clauses are now “widespread in long-term care facilities, in nursing homes, assisted living, board and care homes,” said Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. Ms. Smetanka said:

“Essentially, you’re saying, ‘No matter what happens, I waive my right to a court decision.’”

Eric Carlson is the directing attorney of the legal advocacy group Justice in Aging. He warns:

 “Arbitrators in general are less sympathetic to residents than a jury might be. The nursing home is probably doing business with these arbitrators over and over. They have an incentive to favor the nursing home.”

Both the National Consumer Voice and Justice in Aging urge residents and their representatives to simply strike out arbitration clauses when signing the initial paperwork.