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During the past five years, our firm has noticed a dramatic increase in the number of cases when people come to us facing a potential case of elder abuse or neglect against a nursing home or skilled nursing facility who unwittingly signed a forced arbitration agreement.

The health of a parent or loved one deteriorated quickly, and the family could no longer care for them at home. A hasty decision was made to admit them to an institution, and in the process, the facility gave them a laundry list of forms to sign upon admission. Now it turns out that someone in the facility physically abused their loved one, and they need to seek legal recourse.

Of course, it would have been better if they had refused to sign the agreement in the first place, which would have been within their rights, or if they would have revoked their signature within 30 days of admitting their relative to the facility.

Unfortunately, most people don't even know that they've signed such an agreement until a major problem arises.

What most people don't understand is that if and when they agree to a forced arbitration proceeding, they will give up their 7th Amendment Right to a Jury Trial. The difference in how this can affect the outcome of your case is huge.

What if it's past 30 days and you realize that you've inadvertently signed such a document? Can you revoke your signature then? Yes, you can, and you should. Note that the facility cannot kick someone out for revoking a signature on a binding arbitration clause.

My recommendation is that you send a letter to the administrator of the facility stating, "Dear ______(Administrator), Please be advised that I am revoking my signature on the forced arbitration clause signed on _____ (Date). At the time, I did not appreciate or recognize what arbitration was when I signed the document. I was given a stack of papers to sign at the time my family put my mom into _________________(Your Facility), and had no idea at the time what the implications of signing would be."

To make sure that the letter makes it into the corporation's files, submit the letter in three different ways: First, send them a paper copy, preferably by certified mail. You can also request a signed acknowledgment of receipt from the Administrator by including such a form in the letter you send to them. Second, e-mail them a digital copy. And third, fax them a copy and keep a copy of the fax receipt.

Don't be fooled by friendly corporate admissions staff who put a stack of papers in front of you to sign and ask that you unwittingly give away your Constitutional rights! If you've admitted a loved one into a facility in the past few years, the odds are excellent that you signed a forced arbitration agreement. Don't be a victim twice. Revoke that signature today while you still can.

If you have questions about what to do or how to do it or concerns about a loved one in a care facility,feel free to contact us at York Law Firm at (916) 643-2200. We’ll be glad to help.