Residents of Florida nursing homes who lack the capacity of sign contracts cannot be held accountable to them, including binding arbitration clauses in nursing home new resident contracts, the Florida Supreme Court has ruled.
Juan Mendez Sr. and his son, Juan Mendez Jr., sued Miami-based Hampton Court Nursing Center, alleging Mr. Mendez Sr. had suffered neglect under their care. The lawsuit claimed that while living at the facility, the elder Mendez had developed an eye infection which later led to the removal of his left eye. Before the matter could be discussed between the two parties, the nursing home invoked the arbitration provision his son signed in 2009 on his father’s behalf before Mr. Mendez Sr. moved into the nursing home. Both the lower court and the appellate court sided with the nursing home.
However, the Florida Supreme Court found that the contract was not valid because the son did not have power of attorney to execute a contract on behalf of his father, and the nursing home failed to follow the proper legal procedure.
“We would never enforce admission agreement if a nursing home obtained a resident’s signature by threatening the violent destruction of the resident’s property unless the resident signed the agreement,” Justice James E.C. Perry wrote. “If we will not enforce a contract when a party agrees under threat or duress, then we should not enforce a contract in the absence of the party’s agreement altogether.”
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a new regulation that would withhold reimbursements to nursing homes that included binding arbitration clauses in their new resident contracts, allowing residents and their family members to sue long-term care facilities to a trial by jury in cases of elder abuse or neglect. The rule was to have gone into effect Nov. 28, but the American Health Care Association, a nursing home industry group, filed a lawsuit in an effort to block the regulation. The CMS rule is now on hold until the issue can be resolved.