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Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements

A mandatory arbitration agreement that a man signed on his mother’s behalf when she was admitted to a nursing home did not bar his wrongful death suit against the facility, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

The nursing home argued the plaintiff signed a mandatory arbitration agreement under a health care proxy executed by his mother before she moved into the home. Wasn’t the arbitration agreement therefore enforceable?

According to the article in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, the Judge Paul E. Troy disagreed with the defendant on the grounds that the proxy wasn’t activated ‘properly’, and because the man didn’t have the “actual or apparent authority to waive his mother’s constitutional right to a jury trial.”  Specifically, the plaintiff had the right as health care proxy to make ‘any and all’ decisions regarding his mother’s health, on her behalf.

According to Michael R. Rezendes of Quincy, unlike a power of attorney, the plaintiff didn’t have the authority to bind his mother to the arbitration agreement. Does this mean that the arbitration could “fall by the wayside”? Bernard Hamill who represents nursing home plaintiffs considers the circumstances, too: the admissions process for nursing homes shouldn’t include an arbitration clause. Instead, he recommends the agreement could be signed on a separate occasion, after the patient has been admitted.