In a recent case, a state supreme court had to decide whether an arbitration agreement, governed by the Federal Arbitration Act and entered into by a nursing home patient and her power of attorney, was enforceable against her husband after he brought a wrongful death action. The man brought a lawsuit against a nursing home after his wife died at the home, alleging that the home was negligent in the care of his wife and that this negligent treatment caused her death. The nursing home responded by arguing that the case had to be resolved through arbitration, and the trial court agreed. The plaintiff appealed, claiming that he could not be bound to his wife’s arbitration agreement as a wrongful death beneficiary.
At the time the wife was admitted to the nursing home, she had executed a power of attorney in favor of her husband. Her husband then signed an arbitration agreement, stating that claims subject to arbitration included any claims arising out of her stay at the home. The agreement also stated that it applied to the patient and the nursing home, as well as the parties’ successors, assigns, and intended and incidental beneficiaries. It also stated that it applied to “any parent, spouse, child, executor, administrator, heir, or survivor entitled to bring a wrongful death claim.”
Considering the language in the contract and other similar cases, the court found the arbitration agreement did bind the woman’s beneficiary. Thus, the agreement required him to resolve the claim through arbitration, and he could not bring the claim in court.