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Health Care Proxy Has No Authority to Bind Incapacitated Relative to Arbitration Agreement, as This is Not a Health Care Decision

Feb 13, 2017 in Case Law Updates by

In Moen v. Bradenton Council on Aging, LLC; Counsel on Aging of Florida, Inc.; and Reginal W. Washington (as to Riverfront Nursing and Rehbailitation Center), 42 Fla. L. Weekly D279, Case No. 2D15-5059 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2017), the Second District reversed the trial court’s order dismissing the case and ordering binding arbitration, and held that a health care proxy may not act as legal representative for an incompetent relative.

The underlying action in Moen dealt with an estate’s wrongful death claim against a nursing home which was charged with the care of the deceased, Norma L. Silverthorne. At the time of her admittance, Ms. Silverthorne was incompetent and her daughter, Susan Moen, accepted a health care proxy designation which allowed her to make health care decisions on her mother’s behalf. When Ms. Silverthorne was admitted to the nursing home, Ms. Moen signed an Admission Agreement which contained a “Voluntary Arbitration Agreement and Acknowledgement” clause. This clause provided that any claims against the nursing home would be resolved via binding arbitration. The estate filed suit after Ms. Silverthorne passed away due to alleged violations of her rights under chapters 400 and 415, Florida Statutes (2013). The nursing home filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration based on the Admission Agreement entered into by Ms. Moen acting as health care proxy. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and ordered arbitration and this appeal was filed.

The estate argues that Ms. Silverthorne was not bound to any arbitration agreement because she was incompetent at the time of its execution and had not designated any legal representative. As the Second DCA explained, a health care proxy does not have the authority to waive a right to a jury trial as this is not a health care decision. As such, the arbitration agreement was unenforceable and the case was reversed and remanded back to the trial court.

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