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Does new rule make suing for nursing home negligence easier?

Forced arbitration is a term many people might not be too familiar with, but it is something that anyone in central Illinois who might have a beef with a business entity needs to be aware of. The reason is simple. Even if you have a legitimate legal claim that you feel entitles you to your day in court, it might not be possible to obtain if your agreement with the offending entity includes a clause requiring going to arbitration.

The move toward mandatory arbitration agreements is one that has been underway for about 30 years. Many observers trace the origin back to the 1980s. That's when the U.S. Supreme Court reinterpreted a 1925 federal law in a way that granted corporations to shift possible legal claims by employees and consumers from civil court to forced arbitration.

The negative effects of the trend are now notable across a whole array of industries. But this week, the administration issued a new rule that some say will tip the scales more in favor of those who have claims of abuse, harassment or wrongful death due to nursing home negligence.

As reported in The New York Times, the Health and Human Services Department rule states that any nursing home receiving federal funds, such Medicare or Medicaid payments, can't require resolution of disputes through arbitration. Court must remain an option.

While supporters of the move in Congress hail the rule as restoring legal rights for those who fight for the medical care they deserve, advocates for the nursing home industry call the rule a reach beyond the department's authority. The industry could challenge the rule change in court, but it's not clear right now whether that will happen.

The upshot of all this is that the new rule may make it easier to sue. Whether pursuing such an option is wise in a given case, though, is something to discuss with a skilled attorney.

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