Mandatory arbitration provisions in contracts are becoming increasingly common. The United States Supreme Court has viewed them favorably. Most notably, the landmark decision AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion held that the Federal Arbitration Act of 1925 preempts other laws that restrict companies from requiring customers to rely on mandatory arbitration. Medical practices also use mandatory arbitration provisions, although they prevent those injured by medical negligence from filing a lawsuit in the courts system. Since this case involves federal law, it is applicable to people injured by New York medical negligence as well.
The United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a North Carolina Supreme Court decision that struck down a mandatory arbitration provision signed by a patient, who later alleged medical malpractice against his physician. The plaintiff was an elderly man, who had a limited education and was rarely asked to read for his work. When he arrived at the doctor’s office, he was given a stack of forms, which included medical history information, along with the mandatory arbitration form. No one in the doctor’s office explained the form to him, nor told him it was optional. The plaintiff simply assumed that the document was a formality.
The plaintiff later underwent hernia surgery. There were complications with the surgery, and the plaintiff had to undergo additional surgeries to prevent the amputation of his leg. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit for medical malpractice, but the defendant moved to have it dismissed on the ground that it was subject to mandatory arbitration. After a series of appeals, the North Carolina Supreme Court eventually heard the case.
The court noted several deficiencies both in the way the arbitration clause was drafted and how it was presented to the plaintiff. First, the arbitration clause was written in highly complex language so that the plaintiff, even after he was told to read it by his attorney, did not understand its provisions. Second, the arbitration clause required that all of the arbitrators be doctors, including one being a specialist in the same specialty as the defendant. Finally, the doctor-patient relationship is a fiduciary one, and therefore, the doctor has a duty to disclose all material facts relevant to the transaction. The North Carolina Supreme Court struck down the mandatory arbitration provision on the ground that it breached the doctor’s fiduciary duty to the plaintiff. The defendant appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, but the petition of certiorari was denied this week.
Mandatory arbitration forms attempt to limit your rights, if you are injured during surgery. The courts system is meant to compensate those who were harmed or killed because of medical negligence. To speak with a Syracuse surgical malpractice attorney about your case, call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano Personal Injury Lawyers at 315-479-9000 or contact us online. We offer evening and weekend appointments as well as home and hospital visits.
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