In its decision filed on January 20, 2017, the District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida Fifth Circuit (“Appellate Court”) upheld the trial court’s decision to not enforce a nursing home arbitration agreement, finding that there had not been a sufficient showing to establish that either the nursing home resident, or his daughter acting on behalf of and with the consent of her father, had entered into a binding arbitration agreement with the defendant Florida nursing home.
The Underlying Facts
On January 8, 2015, the man was released from a Florida hospital to be directly admitted to the defendant nursing home facility. The following day, the resident’s daughter executed an agreement prepared by the nursing home that admitted the resident, which contained an optional arbitration agreement that waived the resident’s right to a trial by jury and agreed to binding arbitration.
On January 11, 2015, the resident suffered a major aspirational event at the defendant nursing home and was transported to a local hospital; he never returned to the nursing home. The resident’s daughter, who had signed the admission documents that contained the arbitration provisions, subsequently obtained power of attorney from her father and filed suit on his behalf against the defendant nursing home, alleging that her father’s hospitalization and injuries were proximately caused by the defendant nursing home’s negligent care and treatment. In response, the defendant nursing home moved to compel arbitration, arguing that the resident gave verbal and written consent to his daughter to sign the admissions agreement containing the arbitration agreement on his behalf, thereby binding the resident to resolve his claims against the defendant nursing home through arbitration.
After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied the defendant nursing home’s motion to enforce the arbitration agreement, holding that a binding agreement for arbitration had not been entered into by the resident or his daughter on his behalf. The defendant appealed.
The Appellate Court Decision
The Appellate Court stated that there are three elements considered by the court under the Revised Florida Arbitration Code when ruling on a motion to compel arbitration: (1) whether a valid written agreement to arbitrate exists; (2) whether an arbitrable issue exists; and (3) whether the right to arbitration was waived. In the case the Appellate Court was deciding, only the first element was at issue and the defendant nursing home, as the proponent of arbitration, had the burden of establishing an enforceable written agreement to arbitrate.
The Appellate Court stated that although the defendant nursing home presented evidence suggesting that the daughter was acting as her father’s agent when she signed the admissions agreement, there was also evidence before the court that: (1) the resident did not sign this agreement (and he was competent to do so), (2) the daughter was not authorized by nor did her father give his consent to her to execute this agreement on his behalf, (3) the daughter specifically advised the defendant nursing home that she had no authority to sign documents on behalf of her father, and (4) the nursing home’s director of admissions has no independent recollection of either the resident or the execution of the admissions agreement.
The Appellate Court noted that the trial court specifically found that the admissions agreement was not explained to the resident nor was his consent requested and that no legal authority had been given by him to his daughter to make decisions regarding arbitration: when there has been no representation of authority by the principal, no apparent or implied agency arises, and the acts of the agent, standing alone, are insufficient to establish that the agent is authorized to act for the principal.
The Appellate Court held that while the trial court’s order analyzed the evidence in the context of the lack of a power of attorney, rather than the existence of an agency relationship between the resident and his daughter, there is sufficient record evidence that supports the court’s express finding in the appealed order that no binding arbitration agreement exists.
Source Palm Garden of Healthcare Holdings, LLC v. Haydu, Case No. 5D16-2568.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home or assisted living facility in Florida or in another U.S. state due to nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, or nursing home abuse, you should promptly contact a local nursing home claim lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your nursing home claim or assisted living claim for you and file a nursing home/assisted living claim on your behalf, if appropriate.
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