We often counsel our clients with regard to the importance of fully understanding the content of admission agreements and any other contract for that matter. Recently, a District Court of Appeals in Florida upheld an arbitration clause in the admission agreement signed by the applicant’s daughter and attorney-in-fact, Debra. Debra assisted her mother, Sheila, in her admittance to a care and rehabilitation Center in Florida. As part of that admission, the facility requested that Debra sign an admission agreement which she did. Sometime later, Debra filed a complaint alleging the facility breached Sheila’s resident rights. The rehab center moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the agreement. The trial court denied the motion to compel; however, this decision was reversed on appeal. The court stated “[I]t is settled that a party should not be permitted to avoid the consequences of a contract freely entered into simply because he or she elected not to read and understand its terms before executing it.” Florida Holdings III, LLC v. Duerst, 2106 WL 920540 (March 11, 2016).
The legislature in New Jersey though, through the creation of the Nursing Home Act, has already determined that residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers are members of a vulnerable group entitled to special protection. See N.J.S.A. 30:12-1 – 17, Ruszala, 1 A.3d at 820-821. While arbitration clauses may not result in the same negative outcome as in Florida, it is important to take a lesson from this Florida case. Always read and understand the terms of any contract you sign on behalf of yourself or someone else.
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