Earlier this month, the District Court of Appeal for Florida’s Second District issued a written opinion in a nursing home negligence case. The issue the court had to decide was whether the arbitration clause that was signed by the deceased resident’s daughter could bind the resident’s estate in a subsequent wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. The court held that the agreement could not bind the estate to arbitrate, and it allowed the estate to pursue its claims through the court system.
The Facts of the Case
The case arose after a nursing home resident died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. At the time of her death, as well as prior to her admission to the nursing home, the resident was not competent to make her own medical decisions. Thus, the woman’s daughter was helping her get placed into a nursing home facility. As a part of this assistance, the daughter arranged for her mother to stay at the defendant nursing home and signed an arbitration agreement prior to her mother’s admission.
At the time the daughter signed the arbitration agreement, her mother had not assigned a power of attorney to her daughter. In fact, it was undisputed that the daughter was merely acting as a health care proxy for her mother and did not have any control over financial or legal matters involving her mother. However, when the daughter signed the arbitration agreement, she signed on the line designated for a “legal guardian.” The agreement defined a legal guardian as someone “who, under independent legal authority, such as a court order has authority to act on the Resident’s behalf.”
Unfortunately, the resident was injured while under the care of the nursing home and soon afterward died. The resident’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit through the court system, seeking compensation for the resident’s death. The nursing home responded by asking the court to honor the arbitration agreement and dismiss the case so that it could be settled through arbitration. The trial court agreed and dismissed the case. The resident’s estate appealed.
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s holding. The appellate court held that the daughter did not have legal authority to bind her mother, or her mother’s estate, to arbitration. The court acknowledged that the resident was incompetent at the time and that the nursing home admission agreement was executed for her benefit, but it nonetheless held that her daughter lacked legal authority to enter into this type of agreement. The court noted that, had the daughter possessed power of attorney, the result would likely have been different.
Has Your Loved One Been a Victim of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. If you or another family member signed an arbitration agreement, do not assume that it is valid without first consulting with an experienced attorney. Florida courts routinely invalidate improperly signed arbitration agreements in favor of residents and their families. Call the South Florida law firm of Cecere Santana at 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
$9.3 million Verdict Awarded to Victim in Motorcycle Accident, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 9, 2017.
Failure to Follow Procedural Rules May Result in Delay or Dismissal of Florida Personal Injury Cases, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 2, 2017.