In the past, those claiming that loved ones were mistreated, abused or died in nursing home care in Illinois were often required to resolve disputes via private arbitration, rather than in a court of law. This was due to clauses embedded in residents' contracts upon admission to nursing home facilities. Ultimately, critics believe that these former practices have allowed facilities for the elderly or infirm to hide nursing home abuse and quality of care issues from the general public.
According to a new rule issued from an agency that is a part of the national Health and Human Services Department, any nursing home facilities that receive federal funding are now barred from resolving disputes in arbitration, and must address them in open court. This rule was a result of 16 states and the District of Columbia insisting that the government cut off funding to those nursing homes that had the clauses in their contracts. The argument for this effort centered upon the use of arbitration to hide patterns of wrongdoing from current and prospective residents, along with their families.
This new rule is expected to go into effect by November, barring challenges that certain trade groups such as the American Health Care Association may try to bring into court proceedings. However, in a year-long investigation by one of the country's most venerable newspapers, many troubling examples were uncovered regarding abuse and neglect in the nation's nursing home systems. Most of these examples have never been exposed because they were blocked from court due to arbitration conducted by agents and lawyers who represented the entities that were accused of wrongdoing.
When faced with tragedies such as nursing home deaths, neglect and abuses, the family members of a victim may benefit from discussing their situation with an Illinois attorney who is experienced in medical malpractice litigation. If a nursing home or other care facility is found liable for nursing home abuse in a civil trial, surviving loved ones may be eligible to receive economic and punitive damages. A medical malpractice attorney will be in the best position to offer guidance on the legal options that are available based on a client's unique situation.
Source: The New York Times, "U.S. Just Made It a Lot Less Difficult to Sue Nursing Homes", Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery, Sept. 28, 2016