South Florida Court Rejects Arbitration In Nursing Home Death

Aug 1, 2019

In a ruling focused on the role of health-care surrogates, a South Florida appeals court Wednesday rejected a nursing home’s argument that a lawsuit stemming from a patient’s death should be resolved in arbitration. 

The ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal involved a lawsuit filed in Broward County after the 2017 death of Stanley Chanson, who had been a resident of Manor Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Several years earlier, Chanson had signed a document appointing his son, Mark Chanson, and a friend, Rosemarie Campbell, to serve as health-care surrogates.

When Chanson was admitted to the nursing home, his son signed paperwork that said legal claims would be resolved in arbitration. After the lawsuit was filed following Chanson’s death, the nursing home argued that the dispute should go to arbitration.

A circuit judge ruled against the nursing home on the arbitration issue, and the appellate court agreed Wednesday. It found that Mark Chanson and Campbell were designated to make health-care decisions and not decisions about issues such as whether cases should go to arbitration.

“The heart of this case is whether a document that designates a health care surrogate is broad enough to allow that surrogate to consent to an arbitration provision in a nursing home admission form,” said the six-page ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Robert Gross and joined by Chief Judge Spencer Levine and Judge Martha Warner. “We hold that the narrow focus of the document is on the surrogates’ power to make health care decisions, not business choices concerning dispute resolution, so we affirm the order of the trial court denying appellant’s (the nursing home’s) motion to compel arbitration.”

The case is one of dozens in recent years that have focused on whether lawsuits against nursing homes should be resolved in arbitration or through the civil court system. The ruling did not provide details about Chanson’s death or the allegations in the lawsuit.