The Daily Record had an article about attorney F. Paul Bland, who represents a neglected nursing home resident, urging Maryland’s highest court to let her take her fraud claims against a Baltimore nursing home to trial, rather than to arbitration as the health care facility wants. Addison, who suffered a stroke in September 2005, says the nursing home delayed filing her Medicaid application so it could continue charging her a higher daily rate for several months.  The delay eventually cost her more than $70,000. She also alleged that a nursing home employee put her in touch with people who tried to buy her home for far less than its value.

“Ms. Addison should be permitted to have this trial go forward while she is alive,” he told the Court of Appeals on behalf of his client, Beulah Addison.  A circuit court judge ruled in 2007 that Addison could not be forced to arbitrate her claims, but his decision was reversed last year by the Court of Special Appeals.

Lochearn Nursing Home LLC’s lawyer, Melvin Sykes, defended that action. Bland, though, argued that the Court of Special Appeals should never have heard the case, because the judge’s ruling was not subject to appeal under Maryland’s laws of civil procedure.

The dispute has spurred interest from groups who oppose arbitration provisions in consumer contracts, saying they compel unwary purchasers into forfeiting their right to their day in court — a “sacrifice [that] falls particularly hard on economically vulnerable populations,” according to the Baltimore-based Public Justice Center.

“Mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements that were once confined to sophisticated commercial entities are now routinely imposed via form contracts on consumers and employees who often have little bargaining power and few alternatives,” C. Matthew Hill wrote in the Public Justice Center’s brief to the Court of Appeals. Joining the brief were the Maryland Employment Lawyers Association, Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition Inc. and the National Association of Consumer Advocates.


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