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Barbara Axelrod Wins Right For Family to Sue Nursing Home

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated a nursing home’s contract requiring residents to submit all claims to binding arbitration under the National Arbitration Forum’s Code of Procedure. After the mother was taken from the hospital to the nursing home, the nursing home administrator told the daughter to sign the contract “in order to have your mother admitted.” She wanted her mother to get the immediate care she needed and signed it. Barbara Axelrod wrote a brief on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice supporting the family’s right to sue the nursing home in court for gross neglect leading to their mother’s death. She argued that the contract was unenforceable, because only the NAF was authorized to apply its Code, but the NAF had signed a Consent Judgment agreeing to stop handling consumer arbitrations following federal and state investigations revealing that its arbitrations were unfair to consumers. The nursing home argued the contract was still enforceable if the court appointed a different arbitrator. However, Barbara used her nationwide research to show that most courts had decided that the contract was unenforceable, because only the NAF was permitted to conduct arbitrations under its Code, and it could not do so as a result of the Consent Judgment. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, in the brief Barbara wrote, “emphasizes that most courts have deemed Appellants’ Agreement unenforceable due to the unavailability of the NAF and its Code of Procedure” and agreed with “the majority of our sister jurisdictions.”

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