Arbitration Agreements: AZ Atty. General Seeks to End Secrecy Provisions

Arizona’s Attorney General, Kris Mayes, is challenging a major nursing home operator in the state with a new legal initiative aimed at ending the concealment of elder abuse and neglect.

In March 2022, a resident with dementia was found face-down at Sun West Choice Health and Rehab. He had a massive bedsore − a telltale sign of neglect − and he died a few days later. An autopsy showed the man died from bacterial pneumonia and a bone infection from the bedsore, according to court filings.

Sun West Choice, similar to many nursing homes, mandated that the family consent to confidentiality regarding any arbitration proceeding. Mayes filed a lawsuit to nullify this requirement and requested that the judge prohibit such agreements across all facilities managed by The Ensign Group, the parent company of the facility.

Arbitration agreements and embedded secrecy or non-disclosure clauses have come under scrutiny in recent years.  In April, I wrote a post on recently introduced federal legislation (senate bill introduced by Senators Blumenthal and Hirono). That post is here:

From the Senate bill: “A pre-dispute arbitration agreement shall not be valid or specifically enforceable against a resident or former resident of a skilled nursing facility, without regard to whether the agreement was made prior to or after the effective date of this paragraph”. Should the Senate bill become law, unlikely in my opinion, the privacy concerns raised by the Arizona Atty. General’s suit would be a moot point (arbitration agreements would not be permissible).

“Concealing abuse and neglect is not only illegal, it’s also morally reprehensible,” stated Mayes. “The Legislature outlawed these secrecy clauses many years ago, yet facilities have continued to employ them. My goal is to end this practice and fulfill the Legislature’s vision of transparency in the treatment of vulnerable adults.”

Mayes has pursued similar legal actions against other facilities in Arizona. In February, she pushed for the end of privacy provisions in arbitration clauses at the Ridges in Peoria. She also recently led a state takeover of Heritage Village in Mesa, an Assisted Living campus, claiming widespread abuse was occurring at the site.

Sun West Choice, the nursing home where the gentleman was found face down, is owned by the Ensign Group. Ensign owns not quite a third of all nursing home beds in Arizona. Over the past several years, state surveyors have issued 16 citations to Sun West Choice for various issues, such as infection control, quality of life, care, and resident rights. The official statement from Atty. General Mayes’ office is available here: Attorney General Mayes Sues to Invalidate More Secrecy Clauses in Long-Term Care Facilities | Arizona Attorney General (

The daughter of the Sun West Choice patient (Robert Knight) that was found face-down, Wendy Knight, is suing the facility and Ensign Group. Atty. General Mayes is seeking to achieve a declaratory judgement that the Arbitration Agreement and its clauses, entered into by Ms. Knight at the time of her father’s admission (he was not cognitively capable of signing the agreement), is unenforceable. From the Attorney General’s filing: The Attorney General seeks to intervene in this case for the limited purpose of seeking a declaratory judgment that the Arbitration Agreement is void and unenforceable due to substantive unconscionability, illegality, and contravention of public policy. The full filing is available here: 2024-05-20 PROPOSED COMPLAINT-IN-INTERVENTION





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