Mar 27

Attorney-in-Fact Not Liable to Nursing Home for Breach of Contract Because Not Guarantor


Reversing a trial court, an Ohio appeals court holds that a son is not personally liable for breach of contract after his father was discharged from a nursing home for non-payment even though the son breached his duty to his father as agent under a power of attorney. Extendicare Health Services v. Dunkerton (Ohio Ct. App., 11th Dist., No. 2015-P-0004, Feb. 6, 2017).

Herbert Dunkerton entered a nursing home after he broke his leg. His son, Michael, signed the admission agreement as his agent under a power of attorney. After Herbert’s Medicare coverage was terminated, the nursing home asked that Michael apply for Medicaid on his father’s behalf. Michael never applied for Medicaid, and the nursing home eventually discharged Herbert for nonpayment.

The nursing home sued Michael for breach of contract and fraudulent conveyance of Herbert’s funds. The trial court ruled that Michael breached his duty as his father’s attorney-in-fact when he refused to apply for Medicaid for his father and entered judgment in the amount of $25,228.43. Michael appealed, arguing that he was not Herbert’s guarantor.

The Ohio Court of Appeals, Eleventh District, reverses, holding that even though Michael breached his duty as attorney-in-fact, Michael did not breach the admissions agreements with the nursing home. According to the court, Michael “signed the admission agreement and the payor confirmation as his father’s attorney-in-fact, and neither document provides that appellant was Herbert’s voluntary guarantor,” so Michael was not responsible for his father’s debt pursuant to these agreements. The court notes that under state law an attorney-in-fact can be personally liable under certain circumstances, but the nursing home did not raise the state law in its complaint.

For the full text of this decision, go to: