When a loved one has been hurt, or has died, while in the care of a nursing home, it is a stressful time, and you very likely have a lot on your mind. Worrying about whether or not that arbitration agreement document you or your sibling signed when your mom or dad was admitted to the nursing home is valid is probably not at the top of your list of immediate concerns. However, it can make all of the difference when it comes to getting compensation for the nursing home’s negligence. Whether it is overcoming an arbitration agreement or defeating some other challenge in your negligence or wrongful death action, contact an experienced Massachusetts nursing home negligence attorney about your options in your case.
Last summer, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in a case in which a daughter sought to sue her late mother’s nursing home for negligence. In that case, a daughter named Carol signed several papers on behalf of her mother when the mother was first admitted to the nursing home in 2013. Among those documents was an agreement stating that all disputes between the resident and the home would be resolved through arbitration instead of litigation. Carol did not have authority under any legal documents to sign on behalf of her mother. Her mother was not present when Carol signed, and the daughter did not discuss the document with the mother before the signature was made.
In early 2015, the mother died. A few months later, another daughter, Jeannette, who was also the administrator of the mother’s probate estate, sued the nursing home for negligence and wrongful death. The nursing home tried to invoke the arbitration agreement and get the judge to compel arbitration, but the court refused. The appeals court upheld that decision, concluding that there was no proof that Carol had any kind of authority to sign binding documents on behalf of her mother, and the absence of the mother’s signature, or the signature of someone legally empowered to act on her behalf, made the agreement unenforceable.