Power of attorney sufficient to send SNF negligence case to arbitration, court rules

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The power of attorney held by a nursing home resident's representative is enough to send a complaint into arbitration, even without specific authority to enter into an arbitration agreement, a Kentucky appeals court ruled last week.

The case involves an arbitration agreement signed by Michael Riley, executor for nursing home resident Thomas Riley Sr., upon his admission to a Diversicare facility in Kentucky. Riley eventually filed a complaint against the facility claiming negligence, statutory violations and wrongful death following the death of Riley, Sr.

The provider moved to have the arbitration agreement enforced, which Riley opposed and a circuit court ultimately denied, according to court documents. The circuit court noted that while the power of attorney document held by Riley gave him the power to “do all things that [Thomas] could do,” it did not specifically list the ability to enter into an arbitration agreement, meaning Riley was not authorized to arbitrate the complaints.

The circuit court's ruling clashed with the recent United States Supreme Court opinion in Kindred Nursing Centers Ltd. Partnership v. Clark, a panel of judges with the Kentucky Court of Appeals said Friday in an unpublished opinion. In that case, the Supreme court reversed a lower court's finding that “a power of attorney needs something more specific than such a broad grant of authority to effectively include the authority to enter into an enforceable arbitration agreement,” the appeals court said.

“In short, the circuit court erred in this matter,” the opinion reads, adding the power of attorney gave Michael the authority to enter arbitration on behalf of Riley, Sr.

This marks at least the third such case sent to arbitration following the Supreme Court's Kindred ruling, Law360 reported.