Family members who sign their loved ones into nursing homes are often automatically signing arbitration agreements without realizing they are signing away rights to a jury trial if the nursing home neglects or abuses a resident. From a strictly legal point of view it is difficult to understand how one person can give up rights another person has. However, that result is exactly what a number of courts have decided when arbitration agreements are signed. It can be devastating to learn that nursing home abuse or neglect cases cannot be brought before a jury.
Many times the family member may have a power of attorney or durable power of attorney for the nursing home resident. Getting a power of attorney is important and an excellent way to plan for the future. However, that power of attorney should not be used to give up rights if nursing home neglect or abuse occurs. One way to prevent losing the right to a jury trial is to have your attorney draw a power of attorney or durable power of attorney limiting the power to give up jury trials. Here is a sample language our firm includes in powers of attorney in Alabama and Mississippi:
No Power to Agree to Binding Arbitration. Although I have given my Agent this general and durable power of attorney, I specifically withhold from my Agent the power to agree or consent to binding arbitration, or to agree to any other process that would preclude the right to have a jury decide any issue in controversy concerning my person or my property; this does not, however, preclude non-binding alternative dispute resolution processes such as mediation.
See your lawyer and have powers of attorney with similar language drawn up for you and your loved ones. Do not let nursing home neglect or abuse go unanswered.
Civil litigation attorney Billy Cunningham practice concentrates on personal injury, wrongful death, nursing home abuse, business litigation, environmental law and insurance matters. He is licensed to practice in the state and federal courts of Alabama and Mississippi, as well as in the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.