Harrod v. Country Oaks Partners, LLC

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Cite as S276545
Filed March 28, 2024
Supreme Court of California

By: Golnaz Yazdchi
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

Headnote: Litigation – Advance Health Care Directives

Summary: A skilled nursing facility cannot compel arbitration of claims arising from a principal’s alleged maltreatment, pursuant to a contract signed by a health care agent.

Charles Logan (“Logan”) executed a power of attorney for health care naming his nephew, Mark Harrod (“Harrod”), as his agent, using the California Medical Association form which is patterned on the Health Care Decisions Law.  Logan was admitted to Country Oaks Care Center (“Country Oaks”), a skilled nursing facility, to obtain living assistance and rehabilitative treatment.  Harrod signed two contracts, one admitting Logan to the facility, and another agreeing to arbitration.  The arbitration agreement was optional.  Harrod, acting as Logan’s guardian ad litem, filed a lawsuit against Country Oaks, alleging negligence, elder abuse, and other causes of action.  Country Oaks moved to compel arbitration.  The trial court denied the motion reasoning that Harrod’s power to make health care decisions for Logan as his health care agent did not include the power to sign the optional arbitration agreement.  The appellate court affirmed.

The California Supreme Court affirmed.  The meaning of a “health care decision” as provided by statutory authority, does not include the power to enter optional, separate dispute resolution agreements.  Examples of a health care decision directly pertain to who provides health care and what may be done to a principal’s body in health, sickness, or death. There is no catchall provision, no express delegation of power to make decisions that serve other purposes, and no grant of power to waive access to the courts by agreeing to arbitration.