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Murder at Sunset: How Arbitration Clauses Are Causing Elder Abuse

June 11, 2016
Colson Hicks Eidson

She was friendly, and at the age of 100, this nursing home resident was known for walking the halls and asking fellow residents if they wanted a hug. She was so nice that she even befriended her latest roommate, a woman who had been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, delusions, dementia, depression and paranoia.

Murder At Sunset

In September 2009, the 100-year-old woman was found in her room after being suffocated with a shopping bag. The police charged her 97-year-old roommate with the murder, but due to her mental condition, she was committed to a state hospital. For most people, that would be the end of this story, but the 100-year-old woman’s son was not satisfied.

He wanted to know why nursing home officials had placed a resident with a violent history and psychiatric diagnoses in the same room as his kind, gentle mother. So he took the nursing home to court and soon discovered that the institution was protected by a forced arbitration clause.

How Are Forced Arbitration Clauses Causing Elder Abuse?

You see, forced arbitration clauses take away your right to take a party to court when you have been wronged. This forces victims into private arbitration, where case details can be hidden from the public, and arbitrators can play favorites. These clauses are being hidden in consumer contracts, employment contracts and even nursing home contracts. The New York Times found hundreds of cases of elder abuse, neglect and wrongful death that went to arbitration between 2010 and 2014 but were never brought to the public’s attention. The son of the victim in this nursing home case had signed just such a contract, but he hasn’t given up on trying to find justice for his mother.

The son only had medical authorization for his mother, and not power of attorney, so he is claiming that he had no authority to sign an arbitration clause as his mother’s proxy. So far at least one judge agrees with him. In March 2016, the son will finally have a chance for a court to hear his case, even though his case was dismissed by private arbitration.

This could be a big step toward keeping your constitutional rights from being stripped away by hidden forced arbitration clauses. To learn more about this struggle for your rights, keep following our personal injury blog, and log onto Twitter and Facebook to tell us what you think about this latest scheme to steal your freedoms.