Attorney General Mayes Announces Second Settlement Invalidating Secrecy Clauses in Assisted Living Arbitration Agreements

PHOENIX – Attorney General Kris Mayes today received court approval of a consent judgment terminating illegal secrecy clauses in arbitration agreements used by dozens of Arizona assisted living facilities. The consent judgment applies to all facilities operated by Bandera Healthcare, the Arizona subsidiary of The Ensign Group, Inc. 
“This is another important step toward the goal of transparency and accountability for all companies that provide care to our most vulnerable citizens,” said Attorney General Mayes. “The Legislature gave the Attorney General a vital role in enforcing our statutes against abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults, but I cannot do that job if victims and their attorneys are blocked from notifying me when they learn of abusive practices because of these illegal secrecy clauses.”

For any future arbitrations involving those facilities, residents and their families will be free to notify the Attorney General if they discover evidence of abusive practices.  This is the second such consent agreement in recent months, following a similar consent judgment with Senita Ridge in February.
In May, Attorney General Mayes sought to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the family of Robert Knight, a man suffering from dementia who died from a massive bed sore he received while at the Sunwest Choice facility. Some claims were covered by an arbitration agreement containing a secrecy clause, in violation of Arizona law requiring notice to the Attorney General in when a case involves abuse, neglect, or exploitation of vulnerable adults. Rather than opposing the intervention, the defendants quickly agreed to invalidate all existing secrecy clauses.
As part of the consent judgment, the defendants acknowledged they had discontinued use of these secrecy clauses in January 2024, shortly after the Attorney General’s December 2023 intervention in the Senita Ridge case.
“I was especially pleased to learn that Bandera had already changed their forms to eliminate these clauses even before we intervened in their case,” said Attorney General Mayes. “I am prepared to keep filing interventions for as long as necessary, but it won’t be necessary if facilities stop using these secrecy clauses.”
The defendants will also provide a copy of the consent judgment to any claimants who previously signed an older version of the arbitration agreement, so those residents and families know that the secrecy clause is invalid and unenforceable.
“Anyone who has signed one of these secrecy clauses in the past should know that the clauses are not enforceable against them,” said Attorney General Mayes. “If the facility doesn’t inform you that the secrecy clause in your agreement is invalid, contact my office and we will intervene.”
The case Attorney General Mayes sought to intervene in is Knight v. Sunwest Choice Health and Rehab, et al., Maricopa County Superior Court number CV2024-007103.

“I believe the best way to protect our vulnerable citizens going forward is exposing and eliminating the failures that led to previous harms," said Attorney General Mayes. "I hope every long-term care facility in Arizona gets that message and embraces transparency without the need for intervention from the Attorney General’s Office.”

The proposed consent judgment is available here. The final consent judgment will be made available after it is received from the court. The minute entry is available here.