CONTRACTUAL ARBITRATION: IS IT BINDING ON VICTIMS OF ELDER ABUSE?
By Edward J. Corey, Jr.* and Kelly E. Sutter*
These days, it is virtually impossible to open a bank or brokerage account, or even be admitted to a nursing home, without unwittingly agreeing to resolve any future disputes with the company through binding arbitration. Arbitration clauses are standard in many industries, and once accepted on an industry-wide basis they become unavoidable and non-negotiable: one either agrees to arbitrate disputes or foregoes the desired or needed services.
Each of us is affected by arbitration agreements in virtually every facet of our lives, but the elderly are particularly impacted by such agreements. Whether contracting for long-term care, seeking care from a hospital, or entrusting their retirement assets to the management of a financial advisor, the elderly are asked to sign binding arbitration agreements which, unbeknownst to them, usually take away rights guaranteed to the elderly by law. Since 1992, the California Legislature has enacted a series of laws specifically designed to protect seniors who are victims of elder financial abuse. Yet arbitration provisions wipe away these rights with merely a signature.