Improperly Notarized Power of Attorney Results in Dismissal of Case against Allegedly Negligent Nursing Home

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court issued an opinion dismissing what may have been a meritorious wrongful death case based on the fact that the document giving the plaintiff power of attorney was not validly executed. In the case, Quarles v. Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab, the lower court dismissed the plaintiff’s case based on two reasons, one of which was the fact that the power of attorney document was notarized after the decedent had signed it, rather than simultaneously, as the law requires.

document-428331_960_720The Facts of the Case

Bernie Jean Quarles, the decedent, spent 11 months at the defendant nursing home before she was moved to another facility. In June 2010, Quarles allegedly executed a power of attorney document in favor of her son, the plaintiff. A short time later, while his mother was still alive, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant nursing home on behalf of his mother, whom he claimed was “incapacitated.” The lawsuit alleged that the nursing home’s negligence resulted in the woman’s deteriorating health.

When the man’s mother died a few months later, he sought to substitute himself as the primary plaintiff. The parties were ordered to engage in arbitration to see if they could reach a mutually acceptable result. As a part of the mediation, the parties exchanged discovery. However, before arbitration began, the defendants asked the court to dismiss the case based on the fact that the power of attorney was never validly executed.

The defendant made two arguments. First, it claimed that the woman was incapable of assigning power of attorney due to her advance stage Alzheimer’s disease. Second, the defendants pointed out that the power of attorney forms indicated that the plaintiff’s mother was unable to understand what she was doing, was not able to communicate, and was not alert and oriented at the time she signed. There was also evidence that the plaintiff wrapped his hand around his mother’s and helped her sign the form. Finally, the form was taken to the notary public after the plaintiff’s mother had signed it.

The trial court agreed with the defendants and dismissed the case. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the decision. The court explained that, even though the plaintiff was substituted as the primary plaintiff, back when the case was filed, it was based on an invalid power of attorney. The court was able to avoid getting into potentially more complex issues by citing the fact that the power of attorney was never properly notarized.

Has Your Loved One Suffered Harm in a Maryland Nursing Home?

If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home, and you believe that they have unnecessarily suffered harm due to the negligent care or abuse of the nursing home employees, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The Maryland-based law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC has decades of experience bringing cases on behalf of neglected and abused nursing home residents. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with a dedicated and compassionate attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Lawsuits Brought by Surviving Family Members, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published March 28, 2016.

Arbitration Clauses in Nursing Home Contracts: Are They Binding?, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published March 7, 2016.

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