Generally, an arbitration agreement, like any other contract, can be enforced against the parties to the agreement. Yet, Maryland nursing home admission agreements (which may include arbitration agreements) are sometimes signed by someone other than the resident. This raises the question of whether the agreement can be enforced against the resident when someone else signed the agreement. If an arbitration agreement was signed, nursing homes will almost always argue that the case must be resolved through arbitration—but the agreement may not always be enforceable. Both parties to the agreement must voluntarily agree and consent to the arbitration. Under Maryland law, someone who purportedly signs an agreement on a nursing home resident’s behalf must have the legal authority to do so.
In a recent state court appellate opinion, the court held that a nursing home resident’s daughter did not have the authority to sign on her mother’s behalf when she was admitted to the facility. In that case, the mother was 77 years old and suffering from dementia and other medical problems when she was admitted to the facility. The daughter and her husband were appointed temporary conservators of the mother before she was admitted to the facility and they signed the paperwork when she was admitted. Among other admission paperwork, the daughter signed an arbitration agreement, and her husband signed underneath the daughter’s name. The mother did not sign the document. Soon after she was admitted she allegedly suffered injuries including fractures and bruises and she passed away a few months later. The plaintiffs filed suit against a senior living facility for negligence, elder abuse and neglect, and wrongful death.
The facility argued that the case was required to be moved to arbitration based on the arbitration agreement the daughter had signed when the mother was admitted. However, the appeals court found that there was not sufficient evidence to show that when the daughter signed the document, she had the authority to bind the mother to the arbitration agreement. The court found that although the daughter and her husband were temporary conservators, and they did not have the authority to make long-term decisions that gave up substantial rights without her consent or without an adjudication that she lacked capacity. In addition, because there was no evidence presented indicating that they intended to sign the agreement on their own behalf, it could not be enforced against them. Therefore, arbitration could not be compelled.
Maryland Nursing Home Lawyers
Nursing homes must be held accountable if they fail to properly care for residents—or worse, if staff members intentionally abuse them. If your loved one has suffered abuse or neglect at a nursing home, discuss your case with an experienced Maryland nursing home lawyer as soon as possible. The compassionate advocates at Lebowitz & Mzhen take pride in advocating for the rights of victims of nursing home abuse and will tailor a plan to meet your individual needs. To set up a free consultation call them today at (800) 654-1949 or contact them online via their online form.