The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a Kentucky case to decide whether an "arbitration agreement" in a nursing home contract can be used to prevent a resident or a resident’s survivors from suing the nursing home for negligence that causes injury or death to the resident. An arbitration agreement is a term that sometimes appears in the “fine print” of a contract and says that a person may not sue in court if a dispute arises concerning the contract. Instead, an arbitration agreement restricts the signer to a private arbitration under limited and potentially unfair circumstances. Some courts have found arbitration agreements to be so unfair as to be unenforceable, but this is a developing area of the law and the law varies from state to state.

For example, on November 1, 2016, in a racial discrimination case against Airbnb, a federal judge for the District of Columbia ruled that the plaintiff's racial discrimination case could not continue in court because according to the company’s user agreement, “disputes must be settled in private arbitration and that users waive their right to trial by jury or to participate in class-action lawsuits.” The plaintiff’s attorney commented that, “By placing [the plaintiff’s] claims into arbitration, a consumer’s constitutional right to a jury trial and access to the courts of law continues to be whittled down gradually but surely.” In an attempt to change the narrative, the corporate website operator responded, “We have launched an aggressive effort to ensure our platform is fair for everyone, and we will continue to work as hard as we know how to fight bias.”

These competing positions underscore the importance of reading contracts before they are signed.

Be careful to read all contracts before you sign them. Arbitration agreements and other terms can affect your access to the courts and your right to a jury trial if you or a loved one is injured. Major corporations often include these terms in contracts without making consumers aware of the consequences.

Robert P. Schuster, P.C. has investigated personal injury and wrongful death cases ---and successfully held companies accountable---for decades. We have achieved unparalleled success in North Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Illinois, and elsewhere by relying on basic, fundamental principles. Caring for and believing in our clients. Thorough investigation and preparation. Creative and strategic focus. Unrelenting hard work. If you or a family member have suffered a personal injury or death, the lawyers and staff at Robert P. Schuster, P.C., will be happy to answer your questions and assist you in any way we can. Please call us at 1.307.732.7800---or email Bob Schuster directly at bob@bobschuster.com.