The Georgia Court of Appeals recently held that a nursing home could not compel arbitration of a wrongful death claim. The decedent was a resident of a long term care facility. On admission, her daughter signed an arbitration provision as power of attorney for the decedent. The provision specifically included a wrongful death claim. After her death, decedent’s husband and daughter (as power of attorney) sued for medical malpractice, wrongful death, and violation of the Patient’s Bill of Rights. The trial court stayed the case and compelled arbitration.
The Court of Appeals reversed as to the wrongful death claim. In so doing, the Court held that the holders of the wrongful death claim – the survivors – did not consent to arbitration and, conversely, the daughter as power of attorney for the decedent had no authority to bind the survivors. Thus, while the medical malpractice and statutory claims were barred by the arbitration provision, the wrongful death claim was not.
This case could have far reaching implications for health care arbitration claims in Georgia. In particular, claims could be split between those subject to arbitration and those that are not, creating a potential “whipsaw” with inconsistent rulings and outcomes for the same alleged acts or omissions.
The case is Norton v. United Health Services of Georgia, Inc., ___ S.E.2d ___ (March 2, 2016).