More and more often, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and the like are requiring patients and their families to sign binding arbitration agreements prior to a patient’s admittance. Nursing homes do this because they do not want a jury to hear a South Carolina nursing home abuse case in which they are accused of negligently or recklessly injuring or killing a patient. Fortunately, not all of attempts to deprive a patient or his or her family of their day in court are successful.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the plaintiff was the niece and personal representatives of the estate of a man who allegedly died due to the negligence of the defendant skilled nursing facility in 2013. (The plaintiff was also the personal representative of the decedent’s statutory beneficiaries.) The defendant sought to compel arbitration of the plaintiffs’ claims based upon an arbitration agreement allegedly signed by the niece, who allegedly signed the agreement (along with other admission documentation) pursuant to a durable power of attorney for finance and a durable health care power of attorney (neither of which were recorded at the time that the documents were signed). (Notably, the defendant’s initial evaluation of the decedent showed that he possessed intact mental functioning and was alert to time, place, and situation.)
The Spartanburg County Circuit Court declined the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s wrongful death and survival actions, holding that the decedent’s niece lacked the authority to execute the admission documents upon which the defendant relied.