A recent Florida Supreme Court ruling underscores the importance of having a valid power of attorney, as well as the importance of being careful when signing a nursing home agreement for a loved one.
Juan Mendez Sr. was admitted to Hampton Court Nursing Center in Miami in 2009. Since he lacked the capacity to sign the admissions agreement, his son, Juan Mendez Jr. signed the agreement. However, the son did not have a power of attorney authorizing him to act on his father’s behalf.
In 2011, the father developed an eye infection that ultimately required removal of the affected eye. In 2012, his son sued the nursing home for negligence. The nursing home sought to block the lawsuit and force the matter to arbitration, per the terms of the admissions contract which contained a pre-dispute arbitration clause.
The lower court sided with the nursing home. Ultimately the matter ultimately ended up in the Florida Supreme Court, which overturned the lower court’s ruling. The Florida Supreme Court reasoned that the son did not have power of attorney for his father and lacked the authority to sign for him; therefore, the contract (and required arbitration) was not enforceable. You can read the court’s opinion here.
While this particular case was resolved favorably for the family, it is not difficult to see how signing a loved one’s admission contract could instead have negative consequences for a family. Had Mendez’ father applied for Medicaid long-term care benefits and been denied, whether because of excess assets or income, or another reason, the nursing home could then hold the son directly responsible for nursing home costs.
When it comes to nursing home admissions contracts, be careful about what you sign… and how. See the do’s and don’t here.