State Court of Appeals Invalidates Nursing Home Arbitration Contract

Late last year, a state court of appeals issued a written opinion in a nursing home negligence case brought by the estate of the deceased resident. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss when an arbitration agreement is valid if it is signed by someone other than the resident. Ultimately, the court held that the arbitration agreement signed by the resident’s son was invalid because the power of attorney document the resident had executed did not specify that the resident’s loved one had control over her legal affairs.

Signing a ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the estate of the deceased nursing home resident. Prior to the resident’s admission into the nursing home, she had executed a power of attorney in favor of her son, who was helping her obtain the long-term care that she needed. In 2005, the resident was admitted into the nursing home after her son signed the pre-admission contract. Several years later, the nursing home presented the resident with a voluntary arbitration agreement, which her son also signed.

In 2012, the resident died, allegedly due to injuries she sustained while at the nursing home. The resident’s estate brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. In response, the nursing home asked the court to dismiss the case, citing the voluntary arbitration agreement that the resident’s son had previously signed. The trial court rejected the defendant’s request to arbitrate, claiming that the power of attorney document did not give the resident’s son the right to agree to arbitration, and therefore, the arbitration agreement was invalid. The nursing home appealed.

On Appeal, the Outcome is Affirmed

On appeal, the court took a detailed look at the power of attorney document. According to the court, the document was a pre-printed form with 15 clauses labeled (A) through (O). Each clause granted the resident’s son power over a certain class of the resident’s affairs. The document stated that if a clause is not initialed, there is no authority granted. The document was initialed by the resident next to clauses (A) through (D). However, there was a line through the remaining spaces for the resident’s initials. There were no initials next to clause (H), “Claims and Litigation.”

The court concluded that the agreement was not unequivocally clear, and it did not confer the right to handle the resident’s legal affairs. As a result, the court held that the arbitration clause was not valid and enforceable.

Have You Been a Victim of Nursing Home Neglect?

If you or a loved one has recently experienced nursing home abuse or neglect at a South Florida nursing home, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have the experience and skill you need to feel comfortable placing your case in their hands. With a track record for success across South Florida, the attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can help you pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case today.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Appellate Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement, Rejecting Nursing Home’s Argument, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 30, 2017.

Court Characterizes Doctor’s Office Slip-and-Fall Accident as a Medical Malpractice Incident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 9, 2017.

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