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CANHR Fights Back Against Nursing Homes’ Attempt to Undermine Resident Rights through Arbitration Agreements

California Advocates for Nursing Home Residents (CANHR) has filed a request to intervene in a lawsuit aimed at weakening state protections for nursing home residents. The lawsuit, Valley View Health Care v. California, seeks to invalidate a state law that ensures resident rights enforcement cases are heard in state court. If the nursing home industry prevails in the case, most residents would be required to protect their rights in arbitration, a process that would effectively destroy the enforcement of resident rights.

For years, nursing homes have increasingly sought to use arbitration agreements to avoid lawsuits by victims of their abuse and neglect. Arbitration is a private system for dispute resolution where the decision maker is paid for by the parties. The system typically favors businesses and companies as they provide a more reliable customer base than individuals. Fortunately, state law prevents resident rights cases from mandatory arbitration because arbitration is a poor forum for addressing the intimate personal rights that are often violated in the institutional setting. Citing recent Supreme Court decisions that have looked unfavorably on laws that limit arbitration, six nursing homes and a nursing home industry trade group filed suit seeking to eliminate the resident rights protection.

Kelly Bagby of AARP Foundation Litigation, representing CANHR in the proposed intervention, stated “contracting for admission to a nursing facility is a stressful and emotionally-charged event, in which the person seeking care will likely be of progressed age and possibly of diminished capacity. In contrast, mandatory arbitration agreements in nursing home admission contracts are drafted by the nursing home’s lawyers and solely to protect the business interests of these facilities. The resident protections in the California Patient’s Bill of Rights are designed to prevent abuses of this imbalance of power, and Plaintiffs hope that intervention in this case will help to preserve these important resident protections.”

CANHR Executive Director Pat McGinnis announced “by intervening in this case, we hope the judge will hear the voice of California’s 100,000 nursing home residents and understand how their rights would be virtually meaningless without access to a court of law. Forced arbitration is a loser for consumers and a gateway for increased abuse.”

In addition to filing for intervention, CANHR has released a website for long-term care consumers about arbitration. The website has helpful information for people who live in or are moving into a nursing home about the arbitration agreements that have become ubiquitous in the admissions process. The site will also feature updates about the Valley View case.