The son of a nursing home resident who allegedly was injured because of negligence did not have the authority to sign a voluntary arbitration agreement on her behalf. As a result, he was not bound by the arbitration agreement, according to a recent state Supreme Court ruling.
Even though Manda Baker granted her son Frank Koricic authority to sign medical and admissions forms, that authority did not extend to the arbitration agreement, which was not a condition of admission, the Supreme Court found. The court overturned a previous district court decision that favored the defendant, the Beverly Hallmark nursing home. The Nebraska Supreme Court said that because Baker had only given her son the authority to sign documents required for admission, and that the arbitration agreement was not a mandatory requirement for admission, Koricic was not authorized to sign the arbitration agreement.
This decision could have implications for other nursing homes that allow surrogates to sign admission materials. The legality of nursing home arbitration agreements has become a major issue in Congress. Earlier this year, former Sen. Mel Martinez proposed the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act of 2009, which would invalidate pre-admission arbitration agreements.