In a recent United States Supreme Court case, the highest court in the nation issued a ruling that has significant consequences for lawsuits involving nursing home abuse and injuries. In Kindred Nursing Centers v. Clark, the Supreme Court concluded that state courts cannot implement laws that single out arbitration agreements in a manner that results in negative treatment.
The facts of the underlying lawsuit are as follows. Two nursing home residents executed a power of attorney for their respective relatives. When each nursing home resident initially moved to the nursing home, the relative executed an arbitration agreement on behalf of the resident. Some time thereafter, each resident passed away, and the relatives each brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home, alleging that the resident’s death was a result of negligence. In response to the lawsuits, the nursing home moved to enforce the arbitration agreements.
Since the incidents occurred in Kentucky, the lawsuit initially proceeded through the Kentucky state court system and eventually reached the Kentucky Supreme Court. That court concluded that the relatives could not execute the arbitration agreements on behalf of the residents because the residents did not expressly authorize the relatives to enter into the arbitration agreements. The court concluded that the arbitration agreements could not be enforced because an individual must specifically and unequivocally waive his or her right to a jury trial under the Constitution.