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Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

More and more frequently, health care providers such as hospitals and nursing homes are seeking to prevent those whom they injure via negligence, abuse, and malpractice from having their day in court. They often do this in a very surreptitious way, such that many litigants are not even aware that they may have jeopardized their right to a trial by jury until it is too late.

It happens under the guise of “signing some papers” during admission into a Knoxville nursing home, convalescent center, hospital, or other medical center. The patient or his or her family member often has no idea of the ramifications of signing the pile of complex documents that are shoved in front of them during what is probably one of the most difficult days of their life.

Fortunately, not all such attempts to thwart the legal process are successful. In some cases, the court system refuses to grant the health care provider’s request to send the case to an arbitrator rather than have it rightfully proceed through the litigation process.

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For several years now, there has been a concerted effort to limit the legal rights of those who might seek to file a Knoxville nursing home abuse lawsuit. Typically, a representative of the nursing home begins this process by asking the patient or someone in his or her family to sign “routine paperwork” that includes an agreement to arbitrate, rather than litigate, any potential claims that may arise during the patient’s care.

The patient or family member often has no idea that, by signing these admission papers, he or she is giving up the right to have a future personal injury or wrongful death case decided by a judge or jury. Instead, if a claim arises, the case will proceed in front of an arbitrator.

Arbitrators tend to be much more conservative in their awards – if they even agree that there was negligent or wrongful conduct on behalf of the nursing home or its employees – thus potentially saving the potential defendant and its insurance company a considerable amount of money in some cases. Fortunately, not every such “agreement” to arbitration is upheld in court.

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Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and nursing homes have a strong aversion to being sued. Of course, no one wants to be accused of carelessness or wrongdoing, and defendants facing claims of nursing home negligence or patient abuse are no different.

However, as compared to many other defendants, the medical establishment goes above and beyond in their efforts to dissuade injured individuals from seeking justice. Sometimes, such efforts begin very early in the process – with a requirement that a patient agree to arbitrate, rather than litigate, any possible claims as a condition to admission into a treatment facility. Fortunately, not all such attempts to deprive an injured person or his or her family of their day in court are successful. A Knoxville nursing home negligence lawyer may be able to challenge the validity of the agreement.

Facts of the Case

In a case filed in the Circuit Court for Shelby County, the plaintiff was a woman whose mother suffered a fractured tibia and fibula in a fall while she was a resident at the defendant nursing home. The plaintiff, acting as her mother’s next friend, filed suit against the defendant, asserting claims of ordinary negligence and violations of the Tennessee Healthcare Liability Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 29-26-101, et seq.  In response, the defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration and to stay the proceedings, relying upon a 2013 agreement signed by the plaintiff on her mother’s behalf when the mother entered the defendant’s facility.

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It has been frequently stated that a society should be measured by the quality of care it gives to its youngest, sickest, and oldest citizens. According to a recent Nursing Home Report Card from Families for Better Care, Tennessee was given a D in overall nursing home care. Tennessee Nursing homes ranked 47th in staffing. This is a disturbing ranking, given nursing home abuse or neglect frequently occurs when facilities lack proper staffing. If you or a loved one have been the victims of nursing home abuse or neglect due to improper staffing, you are encouraged to contact a local personal injury attorney with experience handling nursing home abuse or neglect cases.

The Nursing Home Report Card does a state-by-state analytical comparison ranking the quality of nursing home care. The purpose of the report card is to laud those states providing quality nursing home care while pointing out states with poor quality to encourage additional accountability. Families for Better Care states, “Tennessee is among the poorest staffed nursing homes states in America as the state overwhelmingly failed every staffing measure.” For the region, Tennessee ranked second to last in what the report characterized as the woeful Southeast Region.

Sadly, there are many people in Tennessee that are unaware of these statistics, and most people only find out when it hits close to the family.
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