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Florida Appellate Court Refuses to Enforce Brookdale ALF’s Arbitration Agreement

Arbitration Contracts in Nursing Homes

Mrs. Dea was admitted to an Assisted Living Facility known as Emeritus of Fort Myers (now known as Brookdale of Fort Myers). Upon admission, her power of attorney (her son) signed the admitting paperwork as her “responsible party.” Inside the ALF admitting paperwork was an arbitration agreement, detailing that any disputes involving a Florida assisted living abuse claim would be litigated in a private arbitration and not a public lawsuit. The following year, the Assisted Living Facility was sold to a large conglomerate in the business of operating long term care facilities. When the facility was sold, the purchasing company amended the residence and service agreement that Mrs. Dea’s son signed with Brookdale Fort Myers. Some terms contained in the original admission contract were changed, but the arbitration agreement was not specifically changed.

ALF Abuse and Neglect

The Assisted Living Injury and Subsequent Negligence Lawsuit

Mrs. Dea was subsequently injured at the Brookdale Fort Myers facility and sued Brookdale in an ALF neglect lawsuit. The ALF moved to compel arbitration. As it turned out, her other son (without the durable power of attorney) signed the documents. Arguments against enforcing the ALF arbitration agreement were as follows:

  • The assisted living facility purchaser which renegotiated the ALF resident contract should not get the benefit of the arbitration agreement (since the contract terms were renegotiated); and,
  •  The son who signed the arbitration agreement did not have the authority to waive his mother’s constitutional right to a jury trial.
    • Apparently, the son who signed the arbitration agreement was only the P.O.A. if the other son was unavailable. The facility failed to prove that the son with the primary power of attorney was unable or unwilling to sign the arbitration contract.

The Court’s Ruling on the Brookdale Arbitration Contract

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