Another very disturbing opinion on Federal arbitration was handed down by the US Supreme Court this week. The US Supreme Court decided that nursing homes can put boilerplate, fine print clauses in their admission agreements. The clauses will make it impossible to get a fair jury trial regardless of how badly the nursing homes treat their residents. It struck done a West Virginia Supreme Court decision which said the arbitration clauses were unfair. Instead the US Supreme Court said that such clauses which limit the resident to using a Federal Arbitrator must be enforced. Awards by Federal arbitrators are usually arbitrary, do not follow rules of evidence and cannot be appealed.
The Supreme Court based this decision on its interpretation of a 1925 Federal statute concerning Arbitration. It said all state and Federal Courts must enforce contracts which mandate arbitration.
Big business has been trying to find a way to avoid responsibility for years, and it has been handed another huge victory in this decision. So, look out for even more boilerplate contracts coming from big business. Last year the Supreme Court gave big business the right to dodge consumer class actions in a fraud case against AT&T, and said in that case that consumers could not band together even it if would eliminate thousands of tiny lawsuits. Boilerplate contracts are everywhere. Cable TV, Cell phones, car purchase agreements, bank account agreements, utility contracts are just a few examples of typical “contracts of adhesion.”
Boilerplate contracts used to be frowned upon by most courts because they are one sided. In the typical nursing home case, most of the time the resident is admitted into a nursing home with little time to plan ahead, read the fine print, is confused and disabled, has not had a chance to shop around, and wants to be in a home near his friends and family. The residents are weak and poorly equipped and are easy prey to the conglomerate nursing homes which strip away their dignity, and treat them like animals in a veterinary hospital. The right to take them to court and have a jury determine the fairness of their claims was the fall back position for residents who are abused or neglected.
Now, that is all gone. Guess which Political party appointed the majority of the US Supreme Court? If you guessed the one that likes big business you get 10 points!