Amicus Briefs Filed in CA Elder Abuse, Arbitration Case

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
A case before the California State Supreme Court looks at whether a person who has been named a health care agent in an advance directive has the legal standing to sign an arbitration agreement requested by a skilled nursing facility. Photo Credit: Kampus Production / Pexels

This week, four advocacy groups have filed an amicus brief in a case before the California Supreme Court involving allegations of elder abuse and the use of arbitration.

A skilled nursing facility, Country Oaks in Pomona, is trying to compel arbitration in a case where the patient, Charles Logan, gave his nephew power to sign healthcare documents but did not give him power of attorney – and later Logan sued Country Oaks, alleging negligence.

An appellate court decided the nephew had no legal standing to sign the mediation agreement as part of the intake forms.

Jessica Pezley, senior staff attorney with the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, contended the California Supreme Court should uphold that prior decision.

“The healthcare decisions law only concerns healthcare decisions,” said Pezley. “It does not concern decisions affecting future legal rights. And so, when somebody signs an advance directive, nowhere in their mind, are they thinking they might be waiving their constitutional right to a jury trial.”

Country Oaks argues the mediation agreement should remain in force.

Logan has since passed away. Federal policy under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services states that mediation agreements are strictly optional and cannot be required for admission to a facility.

Pezley said corporate mediation is often weighted in favor of the defendant.

“By compelling arbitration, Logan would not have had his constitutional right to have a trial by jury,” said Pezley. “Instead, he would go in front of an arbitrator, which tend to be in favor of corporations – just because corporations are the ones who are tending to use arbitration on a repeat basis.”

Logan’s estate is now pursuing the case. The California Supreme Court has not yet announced a hearing date.