Proxies cannot sign nursing home arbitration agreements, Colorado court rules

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A Colorado court recently ruled that a healthcare proxy does not have the authority to sign an arbitration agreement on behalf of a nursing home resident.

Under Colorado law, a healthcare proxy is empowered to make medical decisions on behalf of another, including “provision, withholding, or withdrawal of any health care, medical procedure, including artificially provided nourishment and hydration, surgery, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or service to maintain, diagnose, treat, or provide for a patient's physical or mental health or personal care,” the Bureau of National Affairs reported.

In the case of Lujan v. Life Care Centers of America, Colorado, Alvin Lujan signed an arbitration agreement, waiving jury trial rights, when admitting his mother, Estella Lujan, to the Life Care Centers of America nursing home. She died three days later, and a wrongful death claim was filed against the facility. Life Care Centers argued that admission to a nursing home is a medical decision and, therefore, the Colorado law applies. But the Colorado Court of Appeals determined that the signing of an arbitration agreement does not fall under the specific definition of the authorities given to a healthcare proxy. As a result, the Lujan family had the right to sue the facility.

In October, the Nebraska Supreme Court arrived at a similar decision regarding the roll of patient surrogates.