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Dickerson v. Longoria

This case raised important questions about the use of forced arbitration in nursing home admissions. Public Citizen represented the Estate of Carter Bradley, a man who died from bedsores that became infected while he was a resident at a nursing home. After his death, his estate brought a medical malpractice claim against the nursing home in state court. The nursing home moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration clause in the nursing home’s admission packet. The arbitration clause was not signed by Mr. Bradley, nor did he execute a power of attorney or advance directive in favor of the person whose signature is on the agreement. Nevertheless, the trial court held that Mr. Bradley’s estate was bound by the arbitration agreement.

We filed an appeal to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals and asked the Maryland Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) to immediately grant certiorari on two questions: (1) Absent a power of attorney or other advance directive, does a friend or relative have authority to bind a nursing-home resident to an arbitration agreement included in nursing-home-admissions documents? (2) Is an arbitration agreement providing that one party will unilaterally select the sole arbitrator from a list created by that party so one-sided as to be unenforceable? The Maryland Court of Appeals granted our petition and scheduled oral argument for February 2010.

The Maryland Court of Appeals granted our petition and ruled in our favor. The court held that the authority to make health care and financial decisions on a nursing home resident’s behalf does not give that person authority to sign away the resident’s right to go to court.