Arbitration Agreements For Healthcare in Maryland
In 2010, the Maryland Court of Appeals considered as a matter of first impression in this State whether an arbitration agreement was enforceable in the nursing home setting. See, Dickerson v. Longoria, 414 Md. 419 (2010). Amici Curiae briefs from well-known organizations like AARP and others urged Maryland’s highest court to consider the “emotional circumstances” surrounding nursing home admissions while the Appellant and others involved argued such agreements were “unconscionable.”
Ultimately, the Maryland Court of Appeals invalidated the arbitration agreement in that case on agency grounds specific to the underlying facts (the Court found that the family member who signed the agreement for the resident did not have the authority to do so). Significantly, however, Maryland’s highest court elected not to find an arbitration agreement in the nursing home context “unconscionable” and went so far as to observe “[w]e recognize that our decision in this case may appear to encourage health care providers, seeking to resolve potential disputes with patients through arbitration, to require that all patients sign arbitration agreements as a precondition to the patients receiving treatment or services. This opinion is not intended to encourage or discourage the use of arbitration agreements as a precondition to the receipt of health care.” Id. at fn. 17.
Supreme Court Rulings on Medical Arbitration Agreements
In 2012, the Supreme Court weighed in on this important issue rather decisively in favor of enforcing arbitration agreements in the nursing home setting. See, Marmet Health Care Center, Inc. v. Brown, 556 U.S. ___ (2012). In that case, the Supreme Court wasted few words striking down a West Virginia decision finding pre-dispute arbitration agreements in the nursing home setting to be against “public policy” under the preemptive powers of the Federal Arbitration Act. It then remanded the case for consideration as to whether the underlying arbitration agreements were unconscionable on other state law grounds.
The significance of Marmet in connection with Dickerson cannot be understated for Maryland health care providers seeking to enforce arbitration agreements. Under Maryland state law, a contract is only deemed “unconscionable” if there is both procedural and substantive unconscionability. See, e.g. Doyle v. Finance America, LLC, 173 Md.App. 370, 381, 918 A.2d 1266 (2007). Absent a finding of both, arbitration agreements are to be favorably construed under Maryland’s Uniform Arbitration Act. See, e.g. Questar Homes of Avalon, L.L.C., v. Pillar Constr., Inc., 388 Md. 675, 684, 882 A.2d 299 (2005). And, having not found an arbitration agreement unconscionable in the nursing home setting when given the chance once before, it is doubtful Maryland courts will do so now in light of Marmet. Thus, for Maryland health care providers, regardless of whether an individual health care provider such as a physician or dentist, or facilities ranging from physical therapy centers to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, serious consideration should be given to the use of arbitration agreements. For more information on the use of arbitration agreements, whether it is how to implement the use of them in your practice or how to enforce them, please contact the attorneys at Walker, Murphy & Nelson, LLP.
Drafting Arbitration Agreements in Maryland
If you or your medical practice is interested in implementing arbitration agreements in your practice, contact our Maryland professional liability attorneys today. We have years of experience drafting arbitrating agreements throughout Maryland, representing clients in Rockville, Annapolis, Baltimore, Towson, Frederick, and the surrounding Washington, DC metropolitan area. We understand the challenges of healthcare arbitration and can help you effectively incorporate arbitration into your practice.
Medical Arbitration Representation in Maryland
If you or your medical practice is facing a and you need experienced medical legal representation, contact our Maryland professional liability attorneys today. We have years of experience arbitrating medical malpractice matters throughout Maryland, representing clients in Rockville, Annapolis, Baltimore, Towson, Frederick, and the surrounding Washington, DC metropolitan area. We understand the challenges of healthcare arbitration and have a high-rate of success in healthcare arbitration cases.
Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only. Nothing contained herein constitutes legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. All persons reviewing this should consult counsel for advice regarding any specific legal questions and any unauthorized use of this information is expressly prohibited.