Estate of Jenner v. Manor Pines Convalescent Center, LLC

Estate of Jenner v. Manor Pines Convalescent Center, LLC, 11 So.3d 648 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013)

We do not often see cases litigated regarding health care surrogates, so I was pleased to see this decision this morning.  This case involved a husband, who as his wife's health care surrogate, signed an agreement with a nursing home that contained a mandatory arbitration clause.  Years later, the wife's estate sued the nursing home for negligence and intentional conduct resulting in injuries to the wife.  The trial court found that the husband, as his wife's properly designated health care surrogate, had the authority to enter into the agreement with the nursing home containing the arbitration clause.

I was disappointed that the more interesting legal question of whether the husband could bind his wife to the arbitration provision in the Agreement as her health care surrogate was not answered by the Appellate Court, because unfortunately, the health care surrogate form that the husband was serving under was found to have possibly been deficient.  Florida Statutes § 765.202(1) provides that if the principal is unable to sign her designation of health care surrogate herself, then another person may sign the principal's name in the presence of two witnesses.  The Appellate Court noted that the husband testified that he signed his wife's name, but that he did not do so in front of witnesses. Since his testimony also seemed to indicate that his wife did not have cognitive capacity to make decisions when the health care surrogate form was executed, there were questions as to the validity of his designation.  The case was thus remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the validity of the designation.

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