The Orlando Sentinel reported on the recent Florida Supreme Court decision permanently altering contract law in Florida. In a giant win for the nursing-home industry and a loss of Florida elderly consumers, the state Supreme Court decided that a lawsuit stemming from the wrongful death of a nursing-home resident must go to mandatory arbitration despite the lack of a proper signatory.
Debra Laizure, whose father, Harry Stewart, died in 2006, about four days after being admitted to the Avante at Leesburg nursing home, pursued a wrongful-death case against the facility. Laizure did not sign the arbitration agreement when her father entered the nursing home. Stewart was admitted to the nursing home after undergoing knee surgery at Leesburg Regional Medical Center. Stewart developed a horrific infection because of neglect at the nursing home. He was transferred back to the hospital before dying.
Mandatory arbitration agreements strip away people's rights to jury trials. Most nursing-home residents and their families do not understan arbitration when the documents were signed. The senior-advocacy group AARP filed a brief on behalf of Laizure, who is the representative of Stewart's estate. The Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home industry lobbying group, filed a brief supporting mandatory arbitration agreements.