Alabama high court upholds nursing home arbitration agreement that daughter signed

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The Alabama Supreme Court recently ordered the estate of a woman injured during her stay at a nursing home to settle its dispute through arbitration. It determined that the woman “passively permitted” her daughter to sign an arbitration agreement on her behalf.

Dolores J. Rousseau was admitted to Millennium Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in January of 2008. Her daughter Barbara signed the admission forms, including an arbitration agreement. That year, Rousseau and Barbara sued the facility, alleging Rousseau had suffered dehydration, a urinary-tract infection, an abdominal blockage, and other bodily injuries, as well as mental anguish and emotional distress, according to the case history.

Millennium tried to compel arbitration in the case, but an Alabama trial court denied the motion. Another suit was filed in July of 2009 and the trial court denied arbitration for this suit also. The Alabama Supreme Court took up the case after the second denial of arbitration. It overturned the trial court decision. 

The court ruled that Dolores was checked in “under circumstances in which no reasonable person could consider the admission possible without the intervention of an agent to act on Dolores's behalf,” according to the court's decision. “She thereby passively permitted Barbara to appear to [the nursing home] to have the authority to act on her behalf, and Barbara's apparent authority is, therefore, implied.”