Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyers -Nursing Home Arbitration Agreements Part III: When Residents Can’t Consent
The desire on the part of nursing homes to saddle their residents and their families with the consequences of arbitration agreements continues. In two previous blogs (here and here) I have written about nursing home attempts to deprive families of the constitutional protection of a right to a trial by jury by virtue of signed Arbitration Agreements. In each of these cases the Courts have dismissed the agreements and validated the right to bring a claim to trial in front of a jury.
This blog describes another scenario and another repudiation of the arbitration agreement in a nursing home setting.
The case is Curtis v. Arbor Terrace at Chestnut Hill. The opinion is by Judge Massiah-Jackson of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.
The facts are a sad commentary on the behavior of nursing home administrators.
Evidence in the case established that the plaintiff, a nursing home resident, suffered from dementia when she executed a power of attorney in favor of her daughter. Her daughter then went on to sign an arbitration agreement intended to bind the mother.
When a claim of negligence was filed, the nursing home trotted out the arbitration agreement signed by the daughter who supposedly had power of attorney to do so and attempted to move the claim from a jury trial to arbitration.
The Court reviewed the evidence and said no.
The court said that, notwithstanding the clear and liberal Pennsylvania policies favoring arbitration, the factual record established Curtis’s physical illnesses, dementia, disorientation and confusion prior to 2012 and throughout March 2012. The Arbor defendants were unable to offer any argument or evidence to mitigate, negate or contradict the undisputed fact that their own physician confirmed the prior diagnosis of dementia in Curtis. The medical records at Arbor Terrace demonstrated that she was unable to retain information at the time she signed the power of attorney. Thus, the Arbor defendants had actual knowledge that the power of attorney was not valid, as Curtis did not knowingly convey authority to her daughter on March 1, 2012, and defendants could not reasonably rely on her daughter’s apparent authority under the POA. When Montague signed the arbitration agreement, she did so without authority to bind her mother to relinquish her right to a jury trial.
One more victory for fairness one more defeat for the arbitration agreement.
by Samuel Abloeser, Esq.