Florida Appellate Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement, Rejecting Nursing Home’s Argument

Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court handed down a decision in an interesting nursing home negligence case, requiring the court to determine the validity of an arbitration contract signed by a deceased resident’s daughter. The court ultimately rejected the nursing home’s argument that, since the resident was a third-party beneficiary of the admission contract, the resident should be bound by the contract despite her daughter’s lack of legal authority to enter into the contract on behalf of her mother.

A Daughter Signs a Contract on Behalf of Her Incompetent Mother

The resident’s daughter was helping her incompetent mother find a nursing home. After the daughter settled on the defendant nursing home, she signed an admission contract on behalf of her mother. Part of that admission contract was an arbitration agreement. The arbitration agreement waived the mother’s right to use the court system if anything should happen in the future giving rise to a personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Unfortunately, the resident was injured while at the nursing home and later died from complications related to that injury. The resident’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home, arguing that the nursing home was responsible for the resident’s injuries and subsequent death.

In response, the nursing home asked the court to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration agreement that had been signed by the resident’s daughter. The trial court agreed that the contract was valid and dismissed the case. The resident’s estate then appealed to a higher court, arguing that the daughter did not have legal authority to waive her mother’s rights.

The Case Is Reversed on Appeal

The appellate court disagreed that the arbitration contract was valid and enforceable against the resident. The court explained that, under most circumstances, only the party signing a contract can give up important rights, such as the use of the court system. Here, the resident never signed the contract. The court explained that, if the daughter were given power of attorney by her mother and then signed the document, it would likely have been valid.

The court also rejected the nursing home’s argument that the arbitration clause should be enforced notwithstanding the daughter’s lack of authority to enter into the contract because the resident was a third-party beneficiary of the contract. The court explained that a very recent Florida Supreme Court case had already ruled on that issue, and found against the nursing home. As a result of this most recent decision, the deceased resident’s estate will be permitted to pursue its wrongful death claims against the nursing home through the court system rather than through arbitration.

Is Your Loved One at Risk?

If you have a loved one in a South Florida nursing home, and you believe that they may be a victim of abuse or neglect, you should speak with a dedicated nursing home negligence attorney as soon as possible. It may be that you or your loved one are entitled to monetary compensation for the poor treatment your loved one has received. Call the South Florida injury attorneys at Friedman Rodman & Frank at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney today.

More Blog Posts:

Employer’s Failure to Conduct Thorough Background Investigation May Be Basis for Liability in Employee’s DUI Accident, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published February 22, 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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