Attorneys General for the District of Columbia and 16 states are urging
the federal government to protect victims’ rights to take civil
legal action following alleged neglect, abuse, and sexual assault in nursing
homes. Their efforts come in response to a proposal that would reverse
a new rule banning nursing homes from including language in contracts
requiring disputes to be handled through arbitration, rather than a court.
The new rule, which was finalized by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare
Services (CMS) last year, directly bans the practice of forcing patients
and families into private arbitration – a form of dispute resolution
that keeps nursing home abuse charges out of the public court system and
weakens residents’ legal leverage. By using arbitration, corporations
win far more often in front of private arbitrators who make money handling
these cases, and capitalize on the fact that some people cannot afford
to pay for a private judicial system. Prior to the rule, mandatory arbitration
clauses could be hidden in the fine print of nursing home contracts, with
residents and families who sign them being largely unaware of what arbitration entails.
A new proposed rule made by CMS in June would nearly eliminate the existing
ban on mandatory arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts. It’s
only provision in the absence of the ban would call for arbitration clauses
to be made in “plain language” and to be explained to residents
who acknowledge their understanding.
While the proposed changes are said to “strengthen” transparency
in the arbitration process, advocates have condemned the change, arguing
that such a reversal would only hurt residents of nursing facilities during
the most vulnerable time in their lives. They are making further efforts
to prevent the proposed rule from taking effect.
Fighting Back Against a Deterioration of Victims’ Rights
The abrupt about-face is due in part to new policies and approaches under
the current presidential administration that favor big business –
the same big businesses and corporations that prioritize profits over
people. The recent proposal to roll back rules pertaining to mandatory
arbitration clauses in nursing home abuse cases is only one of many similar
efforts that deteriorate victims’ rights.
Since January, there have been many examples of anti-regulatory initiatives.
These include tort reform bills being considered by Congress that would
cap non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases and greatly limit
the scope of class action lawsuits, one of the only avenues victims have
for holding corporations accountable. The transportation sector has also
seen significant efforts from the trucking industry, which looks to roll
back regulations on weight limits, hours of service rules, and more. These
efforts are fueled by special interest groups that have a financial stake
in limiting lawsuits and eliminating burdensome regulations. While they
flood money into our politics in hopes of empowering corporations, they
do so at the expense of public safety and the depreciation of the civil
As a law firm that represents injured victims and families in cases often
defended against by large corporations and insurance companies, Biren
Law Group is passionate about following the efforts of lawmakers, lobbyists,
and corporate powers whose profit-driven agendas jeopardize public safety
and victims’ rights. We have seen first-hand how negligence can
create profound losses in victims’ lives, and how those victims
and families can be further victimized when their rights in our civil
justice system are compromised by corporations.
By staying abreast of these issues and sharing them on our blog, we hope
that others will get involved in making their voices heard. You can learn
more about nursing home arbitration and other civil justice issues by visiting
www.takejusticeback.com, or by
contacting a member of our team to discuss a potential case.