IS THAT ETHICAL? IS IT LEGAL? 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

Well – I heard an interesting story today. A nursing home refusing to take a patient back into their care (re-admission) unless the family signed an arbitration agreement. Do you know what an arbitration agreement is? It is a binding contract wherein one party agrees to waive their right to a trial in state or federal court – and agrees if they have any legal claims, they will be filed in Arbitration.

Why does this upset me? Well, for a many reasons, only a few of which I will discuss:
1. If you refuse to pay your nursing home bill – the Nusing home is NOT bound by the arbitration agreement. Oh no, they take you to Court to get unpaid bills – so they don’t waive their right to access local courts or ask for a jury trial.
2. Filing a lawsuit in state Court is usually less than $200 – to file in arbitration – it is 2 or 3 times as much – just to file the suit, and that doesn’t include the price of the arbitrator. Judges, paid by the state – are essentially free once you have paid the filing fees.
3. Lawsuit – you are entitled to a jury of your peers. In arbitration – you get one person, deciding everything.

So – what the facility is saying, essentially, is – “If you don’t give up your civil rights and access to the judicial system” – then “we won’t take care of grandpa.” Wow – now thats a nice thing to say, especially around Thanksgiving when Grandpa is already in a bed, hooked up and resting for the night. Clearly – I don’t think that type of strong armining is ethical – but is it legal?

Yes. If the print is in bold – and its explained sufficiently in the paperwork, it is legal.

By the way, Have a Great Thanksgiving!

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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