United Health Services of Georgia v. Alexander

On June 12, 2013, Doris Alexander was admitted to PruittHealth-Forsyth nursing home, formerly known as Heritage Healthcare of Forsyth. On or about that same date, Carol Alexander, Doris Alexander’s daughter, signed a nursing home admission agreement and other documents, including an optional arbitration agreement naming her mother and the nursing home as parties. The arbitration agreement provided that it was voluntary and not a precondition to admission to the nursing home, that the parties waived the right to a jury trial and instead agreed to have any future disputes between them resolved by binding arbitration, that an arbitration decision would be final and unappealable, that the agreement was governed by the Federal Arbitration Act and not by the Georgia Arbitration Act, and that the patient/resident could revoke the agreement within 30 days of signing it. Carol Alexander signed the agreement on the line designated for the signature of the patient/resident. Doris Alexander was not present when her daughter signed the arbitration agreement, Carol Alexander never showed or discussed the arbitration agreement with her mother, and Doris Alexander never signed the agreement herself.

Doris Alexander remained a resident of the nursing home until she died on February 27, 2014. On May 5, 2015, Jeanette Alexander, another of Doris Alexander’s children and administrator of her estate, filed a lawsuit against United Health Services of Georgia, Inc., and other defendants, asserting multiple causes of action, including claims for negligence, wrongful death, and medical malpractice. Based on the arbitration agreement, United Health and other defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, to stay proceedings and compel arbitration. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion, finding that there was no valid and enforceable arbitration agreement because Carol Alexander did not have the authority to sign the arbitration agreement on her mother’s behalf. The defendants’ application for interlocutory appeal was granted, and this appeal followed.