19 Feb Florida Supreme Court rules in favor of Leesburg nursing home in suit over patient’s death
TALLAHASSEE — In a win for the nursing-home industry, the state Supreme Court said that a lawsuit stemming from the death of a former Leesburg nursing-home patient should go to arbitration.
The unanimous ruling comes amid numerous legal battles about arbitration agreements that people have signed as they entered nursing homes. The industry contends that arbitration is an effective way to resolve disputes about injuries that might occur in nursing homes; plaintiffs’ attorneys argue the agreements strip away people’s rights to jury trials.
An underlying issue in many of the cases is whether nursing-home residents or their families understood arbitration agreements when the documents were signed.
The Supreme Court rejected arguments made by Debra Laizure, whose father, Harry Stewart, died in 2006, about four days after being admitted to the Avante at Leesburg nursing home. Laizure pursued a wrongful-death case against the facility, which argued that an agreement signed by Stewart required the dispute to go to arbitration.
Justices found that arbitration agreements should be followed in such wrongful-death cases, upholding a decision by the 5th District Court of Appeal. Laizure did not sign the arbitration agreement when her father entered the nursing home.