Spouses Are Not Automatically The Agents Of One Another When It Comes To Making Health Care Decisions
Mrs. Goldman signed an arbitration provision on behalf of her husband who entered a nursing home. After Mr. Goldman died, Mrs. Goldman sued on behalf of her husband for elder abuse and related wrongs, and in her individual capacity, for negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death. After defendants lost their motion to compel arbitration, they appealed. Goldman v. Sunbridge Healthcare, LLC, Case No. C069970 (3rd Dist. filed Sept. 27, publication ordered Oct 28, 2013).
The defendants lost their appeal, because they failed to demonstrate that Mr. Goldman lacked the capacity to make health decisions, and that he had delegated authority to Mrs. Goldman to sign an arbitration agreement. When Mrs. Goldman signed, she wrote “stroke”, by way of explaining why Mr. Goldman had not signed. But she was not a doctor, and there was no evidence that Mr. Goldman lacked the ability to sign or make his own health decisions. Agency had to be created by the purported principal, Mr. Goldman, not the purported agent. And the mere fact that Mr. and Mrs. Goldman were husband and wife was not enough to automatically confer agency for making health care decisions.
Lurking in the appeal is an interesting issue that the Court did not have to address, once it found that there was no effective agreement to arbitrate. That issue is whether Cal. Code of Civ. Proc., section 1281.2(c), which allows a trial court judge to adjudicate arbitrable and non-arbitrable claims to avoid inconsistent decisions, is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act.