The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, in its opinion filed on February 6, 2020, held, in a case in which a nursing home was seeking to enforce an arbitration agreement signed by the resident’s wife with regard to negligence claims against the nursing home, “The trial court concluded, and we agree, that “the record is devoid of the type of evidence on which the [c]ourt could conclude that [Decedent’s] conduct, as the purported principal, could establish an agency relationship with [Traver] based upon apparent authority….””
Traver, the deceased resident’s wife, filed a Complaint against the nursing home, asserting claims of ordinary and corporate negligence, custodial neglect, survival and wrongful death. Traver sought punitive damages in four counts of the Complaint. Regarding the ManorCare Defendants, Traver alleged that, in an effort to maximize profits, the ManorCare Defendants intentionally reduced staffing levels and increased the number of sick, elderly, and frail patients requiring complex medical care. Traver claimed that this practice resulted in a recklessly high resident-to-staff ratio, and the failure of staff to properly manage and treat illnesses and injuries among the residents. Traver alleged that, as a result of inadequate care, Decedent suffered from a fall, pneumonia, multiple urinary tract infections, dehydration, skin tears, pressure ulcers, and scrotal dermatitis during his residencies.
The ManorCare Defendants filed Preliminary Objections, including a Motion to Enforce the Arbitration Agreement signed by Traver on behalf of her husband at the time of his nursing home admission. The trial court entered an Order denying the ManorCare Defendants’ Motion to Enforce the Arbitration Agreement, and the ManorCare Defendants thereafter filed a timely Notice of Appeal.
Superior Court Opinion
The Superior Court stated that it is undisputed that Traver did not have a power of attorney for her husband at the time she executed the arbitration agreement, nor was she his legal guardian: “Traver’s status as Decedent’s wife does not, by itself, establish an agency relationship.” Further, “nothing in the record suggests that Decedent expressly indicated to Delevan [the nursing home representative] that Traver could sign the documents on his behalf.”
The Superior Court further stated, “The ManorCare Defendants offered no evidence that Decedent was aware of the Arbitration Agreement or had authorized Traver to sign the Agreement on his behalf … our review of the record confirms that Decedent did not, in fact, separately sign the Arbitration Agreement, as he had the Admissions Agreement … As the ManorCare Defendants concede in their brief, the Arbitration Agreement is a stand-alone agreement … we cannot agree that Decedent ratified the Arbitration Agreement after Traver had signed it.”
The Superior Court held: “we conclude that the ManorCare Defendants failed to establish that Traver had legal authority to execute the Arbitration Agreement on Decedent’s behalf.”
Source Traver v. Reliant Senior Care Holdings, Inc., 2020 PA Super 23.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in Pennsylvania or in another U.S. state due to a nursing home fall, nursing home aspiration, nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, nursing home under-staffing, or the nursing home failing to properly care for a vulnerable adult, you should promptly find a Pennsylvania nursing home claim lawyer, or a nursing home claim lawyer in your state, who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf or behalf of your loved one, if appropriate.
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