Aug 29

Normal Agency Principles Apply to Arbitration Agreement


When Evergreen Woods’ admissions coordinator visited May Robinson in her room to review and sign admission documents, May stated that she wanted her husband, also present, to sign the documents. The packet of documents contained an arbitration agreement, and the coordinator stated that entry into the agreement was not a condition of admission. The husband signed the documents. At issue in the appeal is the trial court’s order denying the nursing home’s motion to compel arbitration on the grounds that the husband was not authorized to sign the arbitration agreement.

The appeals court held that a party to an arbitration agreement is bound to the agreement when the signatory was authorized to act as the party’s agent. The lower court failed to distinguish prior case law setting aside arbitration agreements where the facility relied solely on the representations of the agent and no apparent agency relationship existed. In this case, May represented to the facility that her husband was authorized to sign documents on her behalf, and the nursing home accepted the representation. It is true that arbitration agreements result in a waiver of the fundamental right to a jury trial; nevertheless, general agency principles apply when considering whether the agreement is enforceable. The facility’s care coordinator identified the document in May’s presence and stated that its execution was not a condition of admission. When May’s husband executed the agreement, it was reasonable for the nursing home to rely on his authority and all information contained therein was imputed to May. The order was reversed with instructions to grant the motion to compel arbitration.

Evergreen Woods, LLC v. Estate of Robinson, 2015 WL 4486504 (Fla. App. July 24, 2015)