Guardians of Nursing Home Residents Denied Constitutional Right

May 2, 2014 | Crandall & Pera Law
Guardians of Nursing Home Residents Denied Constitutional Right

The Kentucky Court of Appeals has unfortunately given guardians of nursing home residents the power to bind the resident to arbitration and deprive them of their constitutional right to a jury trial.

An overview of the related case, LP Pikeville LLC, v. Wright, is as follows:

The Defendant Ginger Wright was appointed legal guardian for Mable Damron.  Three years later, Damron became a resident of a long-term care facility (the “Facility”).  As guardian, Wright executed all admission documents on Damron’s behalf, including an optional agreement requiring the parties to the contract to arbitrate any disputes or claims against the Facility or its related entities.  The arbitration agreement explicitly stated that the parties understood they were waiving their constitutional right to a jury trial. 

Wright subsequently filed a complaint for medical malpractice, negligence, corporate negligence, and violations of statutory duties against the Facility and various affiliated companies.  The Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to stay the action and compel arbitration as provided by the agreement.  Wright responded that the agreement was unenforceable on several grounds, including that she lacked the authority to execute any agreement which waived Damron’s right to a jury trial.  The trial court agreed, asserting that a guardian does not have the authority to waive her ward’s right to trial by jury. 

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a court-appointed guardian has the authority to execute an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on behalf of her ward.  It explained that the “best interests” of the ward in this situation must be informed by the legislative policies expressed in the federal and state arbitration acts. Wright did not waive Damron’s right to bring claims against the Facility and related entities—she only specified a forum where those claims must be argued.  Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order.   

Crandall & Pera Law recommends that when offered binding arbitration during the admission process, just say no thanks. In order for the arbitration agreement to be enforceable, it must be an OPTION, not a requirement for admission. Again, just say no.

If you or someone you love has been injured due to nursing home abuse or negligence, call the professionals at Crandall & Pera Law for a free case evaluation. Crandall & Pera Law is available to help answer your questions and guide you in determining your next steps.