Advocacy Groups File Brief in Arbitration and Elder Abuse Case Before California Supreme Court

February 22, 2023

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Four advocacy groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the California Supreme Court Monday, asserting that a patient’s advance directive appointing a healthcare agent to make their medical decisions does not authorize them to sign arbitration agreements on the patient’s behalf.

The brief by Compassion & Choices, Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice, and Public Justice addresses a lawsuit, Logan v. Country Oaks Partners, filed after a California nursing home attempted to force arbitration of a lawsuit brought by a nursing home resident, Charles Logan.

Logan claimed that the Country Oaks Care Center in Pomona, Calif., engaged in elder abuse and neglect, negligence, and violated the California Residents’ Bill of Rights when he resided at the nursing home.

Logan appointed his nephew as his healthcare agent in his advance directive and he signed an optional arbitration agreement on Logan’s behalf 19 days after his admission to Country Oaks. Logan argued that his advance directive only authorized his nephew to make “healthcare decisions” on his behalf, and since arbitration is not a healthcare decision, he was not bound to it. The California Court of Appeal agreed with Logan in a decision in August 2022. Country Oaks appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court.

“The Legislature enacted the Health Care Decisions Law to preserve the personal autonomy of patients like Mr. Logan,” said Jess Pezley, senior staff attorney, Compassion & Choices. “This personal autonomy would be undermined if a healthcare agent could bind a patient to legal decisions outside the agent’s specific authority, forcing the patient to waive their constitutional right to a jury trial.”

“Authorizing someone to make ‘health care decisions’ in an advance directive doesn’t give them the right to agree to arbitration on the principal’s behalf,” said Sharon Arkin, past president and co-amicus chair of Consumer Attorneys of California. “Elderly people like Mr. Logan should be free to give their loved ones agency over medical treatment decisions without signing away their right to a jury trial if there are problems with their care.”

“Giving up the constitutional right to bring claims in court isn’t a healthcare decision, and we hope the Supreme Court will agree,” said Leah Nicholls, Director, Access to Justice Project, Public Justice. “Such a decision would be consistent with the intent of the statute and with the conclusion reached by high courts in other states.”

The friend-of-the-court brief is posted here:

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