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Power of Attorney

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CaseWilkins, et al. v. GGNSC Springfield, LLC, et al.

Issue:  Does a health care power of attorney authorize an agent to execute an optional arbitration agreement?

Facts:  Mother executed a health care power of attorney that named her Son as her attorney-in-fact. When Mother was admitted to Nursing Home, Son signed on his Mother’s behalf an Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement. Following Mother’s death, Son filed a lawsuit against Nursing Home, which moved to dismiss or stay the case based on the ADR Agreement. The trial court denied Nursing Home’s motion, holding that the health care power of attorney did not give authority to bind Mother to an optional arbitration agreement regarding her health care.

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court rule in favor of Son/Mother and affirmed denial of Nursing Home’s motion. Although a provision did give authorization to arrange for care and treatment, the preamble noted that the power was granted only in order to “consent to proposed medical treatment.”

Review Granted:  June 24, 2014.

Prediction: Ben thinks the Supreme Court may reverse and hold in favor of Nursing Home. Although the power of attorney here was not as broad as those in prior decisions, the specific power to “arrange” for Mother’s health care seems to provide requisite authority to make collateral negotiations with health care providers to effectuate the intent expressed in the preamble.