Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case against a California nursing home. The case required the court to determine if an arbitration agreement, signed by the resident’s adult daughter, was valid and enforceable. Ultimately, the court affirmed the lower court’s finding that there was substantial evidence suggesting that the resident’s daughter did not have the authority to sign the form and agree to submit any subsequent claims to arbitration. Thus, the court rejected the facility’s request to force the case into arbitration.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s mother was a resident at the defendant nursing home. The plaintiff’s mother had a history of diabetes, dementia, end-stage renal disease, generalized muscle weakness, and other debilitating conditions. At some point during her stay, the plaintiff’s mother required hospitalization. Upon her mother being re-admitted to the facility after being discharged from the hospital, the plaintiff signed a two-page document containing an agreement to arbitrate any claims arising out of the facility’s care of her mother. The plaintiff signed on her mother’s behalf. The plaintiff’s mother did not sign the document.
Later, the plaintiff’s mother passed away from a worsening medical condition. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility, and the facility moved to compel arbitration, based on the agreement signed by the plaintiff. The plaintiff argued that the agreement was invalid because, at the time that she signed it, she did not have the legal ability to sign away her mother’s right to access the court system.