Earlier this month the Florida Supreme Court heard a case involving a nursing home negligence allegation. However, the state’s Supreme Court wasn’t ruling on the accusation of negligence, but rather on the enforceability of a nursing home arbitration provision in the contract. In 2009 the nursing home’s resident’s son signed the contract, which included an arbitration provision. At the time, the nursing home concluded that the father was no longer mentally capable of signing contracts.
However, there was never a formal legal documentation of the father’s status or any legal documentation that gave his son power of attorney to legally execute a contract on his father’s behalf. The question in play became whether the son’s signature on the nursing home contract was binding.
Did son have authority to sign nursing home agreement on behalf of his father?
The nursing home negligence case was filed in Miami after the patient suffered an eye infection that led to the eye being removed. Immediately, the nursing home is said to have invoked the arbitration agreement that the son signed. The son appealed this once in the lower court and once in the District Court of Appeals. Both courts ruled in favor of the nursing home’s right to ask the son to sign the agreement on his father’s behalf. However, when the case reached the Florida Supreme Court, the justices ruled that the son did not have the authority to sign the contract. In the State of Florida, there is a legal procedure that one must go through in order to be lawfully granted power of attorney; that is for one individual to have the authority to sign legal documents on behalf of another individual. Even if the individual in question is not mentally capable of signing a legal document, another person cannot simply assume responsibility on their behalf.
There is a specific system that Florida has in place to make this act legal. In this particular case, The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the son’s signature was not valid because the nursing home did not seek legal documentation beforehand that the patient was mentally incapable of signing and no other individual was legally given authority to act on the patient’s behalf.
Nursing home arbitration provisions are highly debated.
Controversy surrounding nursing home contracts is nothing new. Recently, a rule was enacted baring nursing homes from including arbitration provisions in contracts if they receive funding from Medicare of Medicaid. Regardless of the healthcare situation, whether at a nursing home, doctor’s office, surgical center, or otherwise, pre-arbitration agreements can be enforceable. What many people don’t know is that once you sign this type of agreement, you are waiving your constitutional right to a courtroom trial. Before signing any type of contract, your best bet is to have a nursing home abuse attorney review it and advise of what the healthcare party is asking you to agree to.
de Leon, M. (2016, December 4). Nursing home residents unbound by unsigned contracts, says Florida Supreme court. Retrieved December 15, 2016, from http://flarecord.com/stories/511049298-nursing-home-residents-unbound-by-unsigned-contracts-says-florida-supreme-court