The Duffey Law Firm Blog

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Can a health care proxy make non-healthcare related decisions for a principal without having additional authority?

In Moen v. Bradenton Council on Aging, LLC, 210 So.3d 213 (Fla. 2nd DCA January 27, 2017), the Second District Court of Appeals held that a daughter did not have the authority as a health care proxy to waive the right to a jury trial and submit to binding arbitration on behalf of her mother because this was not a health care decision. 

Norma Silverthorne was admitted to Riverfront Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in 2013. Just after Silverthorne was admitted, she executed a health care proxy designation, nominating her daughter Susan Moen as her health care surrogate. However, Silverthorne never executed a durable power of attorney in favor of Moen. Using the health care proxy, Moen executed the admission agreement and a “Voluntary Arbitration Agreement and Acknowledgement,” on behalf of her mother as her mother’s “legal representative”. Upon Silverthorne’s death, Moen filed a wrongful death action against the Riverfront due to injuries sustained at the facility resulting in Silverthorne’s death. The trial court held that Silverthorne was considered a third-party beneficiary of the Agreement and compelled arbitration pursuant to the “Voluntary Arbitration Agreement and Acknowledgement,” and Moen appealed.

On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeals held that Moen did not have the authority as a health care proxy to waive the right to a jury trial and submit to binding arbitration on behalf of Silverthorne because this was not a health care decision. Further, the court rejected Riverfront’s argument that Silverthorne was a third-party beneficiary based upon the ruling in Mendez v. Hampton Court Nursing Center, LLC, 203 So.3d 146 (Fla. 2016), which was issued by the Florida Supreme Court during the pendency of this matter.       

The Takeaway?

A designation of health care proxy does not allow an agent to make non-health care related decisions on behalf of the principal. Where there is no guardianship in place, a durable power of attorney is the appropriate document to use to make financial and other non-health care related decisions on behalf of a principal. 





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