March 07, 2016 Articles

Another Nursing Home and Arbitration Clause in Alabama

By Gary C. Norman

In thinking of Alabama, a film starring Reese Witherspoon may appear from the depths of the brain. A Supreme Court chief justice railing against the LGBT community (based on his interpretation of biblical dictates) may even come to mind. Little would, however, one think Alabama would have the complex issue of the intersectionality among health care and supports and services and enforceability of arbitration clauses.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Alabama decided on just this issue in Diversicare Leasing Corp. v. Hubbard, No. 1131027 (Ala. Sept. 30, 2015). In simple terms, the court decided whether an arbitration clause was enforceable in a wrongful death claim where, because of incapacity, an individual did not sign the arbitration agreement. Federal substantive law provides that state contract legal principles govern whether the parties to a case agreed to arbitrate their conflict. Ex part Roberson, 749 So. 2d 441, 445 (Ala. 1999). In Diversicare, the court decided in favor of a next of kin to a person with severe disabilities, affirming the trial court's decision to deny the motion to compel arbitration where a contract for admission to a long-term care facility provided for any conflicts among the resident and the facility to be submitted to arbitration.

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