Nursing Home Company Operating in Pennsylvania Allowed Delusional Patient to Sign Binding Arbitration Agreement


March 13, 2010

Recently, we wrote about the dangers of agreeing to binding arbitration in nursing home contracts. As Pennsylvania nursing home negligence attorneys, we strongly advise nursing home patients and their families to avoid binding arbitration agreements, and a March 8 story in the Boston Herald starkly illustrates the reasons why. The family of John J. Donahue is suing a Brockton, Mass., nursing home over his death from serious injuries sustained because of a staff member's negligence. Donahue, 93, was paralyzed and needed staff members' help moving. Because a staff member tried to move Donahue alone, using a lift that was supposed to be operated by two people, Donahue's left eye was gouged by a metal safety hook on the machine. For reasons not made clear in the article, the home waited 15 hours before taking him to the hospital. Donahue's eye had to be removed, but he still developed an infection that caused sepsis, a dangerous immune system overreaction. This led to his death six weeks later.

Donahue's stepdaughter and the executor of his affairs, Marlene Owens, tried to sue Embassy House Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. However Donahue had signed an arbitration agreement when he entered the home at the age of 91, barring him from requesting a jury trial if he was killed or injured by Embassy House's negligence. At that time, Embassy House's own records showed that he was suffering from confusion, delusions and depression. Owens and her nursing home abuse attorney fought this agreement in court, winning a declaration last year that the agreement was invalid because Donahue was "unable to act in a reasonable manner." Further, the judge said, Embassy House should have known that Donahue was not competent to sign away his right to a trial. This decision opened the way for Owens to sue Embassy House and Kindred Healthcare, Embassy House's parent company at the time. Kindred Healthcare operates in Pennsylvania as well. Owens alleges that both companies' negligence led to her stepfather's terrible accident, deformity and death.

Patients and families can overturn unfair binding arbitration agreements, but they will almost certainly need help from a skilled Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer. At Rosenbaum & Associates, we help patients and their families hold nursing homes accountable for the terrible results of their negligence. If you suspect that a nursing home patient is being maltreated, please contact Rosenbaum & Associates immediately. For a free consultation with an experienced attorney, please call us at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us a message online.