Thursday, February 25, 2016

Landmark Case Against a Massachusetts Nursing Home

Scott Barrow, the man suing Brandon Woods nursing home.

Previously denied the right to take his case against a nursing home to court, Scott Barrow has been given his right to sue and his case will be heard in court next month.

Barrow wanted to sue the nursing home for not preventing his mother's death, despite staff having observed alarming hostility and warning signs from his mother's mentally ill roommate. The contract he signed contained an arbitration clause, so instead of taking his case to court, Barrow had to have it settled by a private arbitrator. In 2010, Barrow lost the case after the arbitrator ruled in favor of the nursing home.
By signing contracts with an arbitration clause, people surrender the right to bring a case to court (CANHR). Legal disputes between individuals and businesses must instead be settled in private with an arbitrator. Neither side is allowed to present evidence to the arbitrator.

     But in 2014 with the help of lawyers, a judge ruled in favor of Barrow and agreed with his lawyers that although he signed the contract for his mother, he did not have the authority to bind his mother to the contract. Meaning, Barrow's mother was not bound to the contract or it's arbitration clause.

Seven years after his mother's death, Barrow’s case against Brandon Woods will be heard in a Massachusetts state court. While the outcome of this case is yet to be determined, I would consider this a landmark case because Barrow was able to overcome the arbitration clause; prior to this case, judges often upheld the arbitration clause.

Should Barrow have read the fine print of the contract better or is he truly the one at fault for his mother’s demise? Why or why not?
With the expanding use of the arbitration clause by different businesses, should the federal government outlaw arbitration in contracts?
Lastly, do you think businesses have the right to use arbitration, or does the clause infringe on people's rights to sue?


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