Court nixes arbitration deal that granddaughter signed

Federal court rules $1 billion nursing home case can proceed, ties alleged poor management to IL gub
Federal court rules $1 billion nursing home case can proceed, ties alleged poor management to IL gub

A granddaughter's signature on an arbitration agreement did not prevent her mother from being able to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a provider, the Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled. Her grandmother gave the granddaughter healthcare power of attorney but it was not valid because official paperwork had not been completed for it by the time the arbitration agreement was signed.

Tamera Nelson signed the arbitration document when her grandmother, Arda Lee Churchill, was admitted to Grace Living Center-Chickasha in March of 2009. However, there was no doctor certification that Churchill did not have the capacity to make her own decisions at that time. 

“Her [Churchill's] healthcare agent is to make decisions on her behalf regarding her healthcare only if she becomes incapacitated, leaving her free to make her own healthcare decisions for as long as she is able to do so,” the Supreme Court's ruling emphasized.

This ultimately made the POA designation a moot point for the arbitration document, the Supreme Court ruled in its Nov. 25 decision. That ruling affirmed a state court decision.

Churchill had designated her granddaughter Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney less than three months before her entry into Grace Living Center. 

The invalid arbitration agreement allowed Nelson's mother, Melody Johnson, to file suit after Churchill died in 2011. 

Grace Living contended the POA question was not relevant because the arbitration agreement did not pertain to Churchill's healthcare. The company holds that admission and any care were both healthcare-related, and would happen only if an arbitration agreement were signed.

The high court disagreed: “Churchill wouldn't have been admitted unless the arbitration agreement was signed,” the justices wrote.