Nursing Home Association Sues California

     FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – Nursing homes sued California, demanding that patients resolve “certain claims” through alternative dispute resolution, and waive their rights to sue for violations of the Patient’s Bill of Rights.
     The California Association of Health Facilities and six skilled-nursing facilities sued the California Department of Public Health and its director, Dr. Ronald Chapman, in Federal Court.
     “This action concerns California’s unlawful restrictions on nursing home residents’ ability to agree to resolve certain claims against facilities through alternative dispute resolution,” the complaint states. “California law provides that any agreement by a nursing home resident to waive rights to sue for violations of the Patient’s Bill of Rights, California Health and Safety Code section 1599, et seq., ‘shall be void as contrary to public policy.’ A recently promulgated regulation also requires that nursing homes advise residents that they may not waive their ability to sue for violations of the California Patient’s Bill of Rights.
     “California’s restrictions on nursing homes’ arbitration agreements are directly at odds with the Federal Arbitration Act’s (‘FAA’) mandate that a written arbitration clause ‘shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.’ In the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed the supremacy of the FAA over conflicting state law in two decisions: ST&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion,” and Marmet Health Care Cinter, Inc. v Brown.” (Citations omitted.)
     The nursing homes add: “The FAA preempts any state law that interferes with the enforceability of an otherwise valid agreement to arbitrate.”
     The FAA applies to admission agreements in which skilled-nursing facilities receive payments from Medicare or Medi-Cal and buy out-of-state supplies, according to the lawsuit.
     Lead plaintiff Valley View Health Care et al. seek declaratory judgment that three sections of the California Health and Safety Code violate the FAA and are invalid and pre-empted by the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and an order enjoining the Department of Public Health from enforcing these sections.
     They are represented by Mark Reagan with Hooper, Lundy & Bookman in San Francisco.

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