20 May Can I Rescind a Signed Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement?
When entering a nursing home, there are a lot of documents that residents or family members must fill out. These documents often include legal terms and jargon that most people do not fully understand. One example of this is an arbitration agreement. An arbitration agreement is an agreement between parties to give up a jury trial and instead have any disputes heard by a private arbitrator. Many times, residents and family members do not even realize what this means until an issue pops up and they cannot take their case to court. What happens then—can a nursing home resident cancel an arbitration agreement? Let’s take a closer look at this issue.
What is an arbitration agreement?
In the simplest of terms, an arbitration agreement is a clause in a contract that when signed, says both parties agree to settle any disputes outside of court. When a person signs an arbitration agreement, they sign away their right to a trial by jury.
You commonly see arbitration agreements in employment contracts, as well as contracts for things like cell phone and internet providers.
The main purpose of an arbitration agreement is to save the company expensive court and lawyer fees by resolving any issues outside of a courtroom. Instead, the company uses a trained arbitrator—who many times is a retired judge—to act as the go-between for the company and the person or persons with the complaint.
Arbitration discussions are generally held privately and act much like they would in court. Both the company and the complainant may each present their side of the argument, usually along with evidence and witnesses. Once that is complete, the arbitrator makes their decision, which is final and for the most part not appealable.
Colorado law allows for the use of arbitration agreements in nursing home admissions despite many widely recognized problems with that practice. Under Colorado law, however, a nursing home cannot deny admission to a resident because they won’t sign an arbitration agreement.
Can you cancel an arbitration agreement?
When signed, an arbitration agreement is generally a binding legal contract. However, situations may arise where a nursing home resident or their family members want to pursue legal action.
Clients regularly ask us how to revoke arbitration agreements with nursing homes. Under the Health Care Availability Act, a nursing home arbitration can be canceled or “rescinded” within 90 days of signing it. There are different ways to rescind the agreement, but it is a good idea to have the person who signed it (or if that is not possible, an heir of that person) should send a written letter to the administrator of the facility indicating that the arbitration agreement is canceled and void and the resident or family member rescind the agreement. This letter is emailed and sent and the family should keep proof of it going through by email or fax and proof of the mailing.
If it has been more than 90 days, the agreement still may not be enforceable depending on the circumstances. For example, if a nursing home withheld admittance until you signed, that would likely void the agreement. There are other requirements surrounding obtaining an arbitration agreement and so if you have signed one and have questions about it, it is best to contact a nursing home lawyer to evaluate your options.
Nursing Home Arbitration Assistance in Colorado
We frequently receive calls from clients who do not realize they signed an arbitration agreement upon entering a nursing home. We have also received complaints of residents and family members being pressured by nursing home staff to sign an arbitration agreement as a term of residency. While a nursing home may ask a resident to sign an arbitration agreement, they cannot legally make you sign it. Understanding your rights and whether you can cancel an arbitration agreement is important.
Photo by Mari Helin on Unsplash