In its Order filed on September 14, 2021, the Appellate Court of Illinois Fourth District (“Illinois Appellate Court”) held in a nursing home negligence case involving the death of a resident in which the nursing home was seeking an order that the claim be arbitrated: “the circumstances support the trial court’s conclusion that Jack was aware he was acting as Floyd’s legal representative. Jack admitted in his affidavit that he signed the documents on behalf of his father and that he believed he had to sign them on behalf of his father for Floyd to receive care. Jack was correct. Leroy Manor did require the admissions paperwork to be completed and agreed to by the resident, the resident’s representative, or both prior to providing care. Jack’s signing of multiple documents on Floyd’s behalf suggests that he was aware of his authority to bind his father. Surely he did not think that this was an exercise for him to practice his handwriting, but instead an actual agreement that he was making. Jack’s signing them outside of his father’s presence further suggests that both he and Murray were operating on the understanding that Jack had the authority to sign for Floyd.”
The Underlying Facts
In November 2019, Linda Taylor (“Taylor”) filed a complaint against the defendants, alleging they provided negligent care for Floyd Dodson. The complaint contained a total of 11 counts against the defendants, asserting claims under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act (210 ILCS 45/3-714), the Illinois Survival Act (755 ILCS 5/27-6), and the Wrongful Death Act (740 ILCS 180/1 et seq.).
The complaint alleged that on August 22, 2018, Floyd became a resident at Leroy Manor, a long-term care facility, and the defendants were aware Floyd was a fall risk and needed help engaging in daily activities such as walking, eating, and dressing. On September 30, 2018, Floyd suffered a fall that resulted in substantial injuries, including a subdural hematoma and an orbital fracture. Floyd died on October 8, 2018.
Taylor was appointed as the independent executor of Floyd’s estate. Taylor alleged the defendants provided negligent care before and after the fall, which resulted in Floyd’s death.
In April 2020, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration as to the Nursing Home Care Act and Survival Act counts in the complaint. The defendants argued that Floyd and Jack Dodson, his son and legal representative, entered into a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement. Jack argued he signed the admission documents for Floyd, believing he had to do so for his father to be admitted to the facility. Jack also said his father never authorized Jack to sign anything on his behalf. Jack stated that no one explained the arbitration agreement to him or the rights he was giving up and had someone done so, he would have refused to sign and taken his father elsewhere for care. Jack further stated he was never designated as Floyd’s health care agent pursuant to a power of attorney, he was never told Floyd had to sign or did sign a power of attorney, and he never saw Floyd sign anything that day. Jack stated that Floyd (1) could not read, (2) had an eighth-grade education, (3) could not speak, and (4) in Jack’s opinion, “had my father been presented with any documents at the time of his admission ***, I do not believe that he would have been able to understand the documents.” The trial court granted the defendants’ motion, compelled arbitration of the plaintiff’s claims, and the plaintiff appealed.
Illinois Appellate Court Opinion
The Illinois Appellate Courft stated that a person authorized by a health care power of attorney may bind a principal to an arbitration agreement as part of a contract to receive nursing home care if the arbitration provision is integral to the entire agreement and required for admission. However, a principal will not be bound by an arbitration agreement signed by an agent under a health care power of attorney if the agreement is separate from the contract for services and not required for admission. Likewise, if the principal did not sign the agreement, the party seeking to enforce the arbitration agreement must present evidence that the representative signing on the principal’s behalf had actual authority to do so.
Floyd was 85-years-old, had dementia, an eighth-grade education, could not read, and could not speak but could communicate by nodding in response to yes and no questions. Regardless, the Illinois Appellate Court stated: “In this case, Taylor had the burden of showing that Floyd was incompetent to execute the power of attorney. Floyd is presumed competent despite old age and illness … As Taylor points out, all Floyd needed was to comprehend the nature and effect of his act of signing the health care power of attorney. Jack and Taylor’s affidavits provide a factual basis for why Floyd could not have read and understood the forms on his own, but they do not address his ability to understand things generally or with assistance. Murray testified that she went through the power of attorney with Floyd and made sure to ask him yes or no questions so he could respond nonverbally. Nothing in the record suggests Floyd was incapable of understanding the need to designate a person to make health care decisions for him, especially if it had been explained to him in short, simple, easy to understand statements.”
The Illinois Appellate Court held: “The defendants met their burden of production by putting forth the fully executed contract, arbitration agreement, and health care power of attorney. Taylor had the burden to rebut this evidence and the presumption that Floyd had the capacity to contract. Taylor did not meet her burden, and the trial court correctly concluded that the power of attorney was valid.”
Source Taylor v. UDI #4, 2021 IL App (4th) 210057-U.
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