Center Successfully Requests Publication of Opinion Holding That Residential Care Facilities May Not Bind Seniors to Arbitration Agreements Signed by Unauthorized Family Members

January 3, 2022

The First District Court of Appeal granted the Center’s request to publish Theresa D. v. MBK Senior Living (2021) 73 Cal.App.5th 18, which held that a senior in a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE) may not be bound to an arbitration agreement signed by a family member who was not legally authorized to sign such agreements on her behalf. Since these agreements are commonly used in RCFEs, the publication of this opinion will serve to guide courts and litigants faced with similar situations and protect seniors’ rights at a time when more and more people rely on these facilities for care.  

The opinion makes an important clarification about the limits of family member’s authority when signing a senior into a RCFE. In this case, the plaintiff’s daughter had the authority to place her in the care facility, but she held no power of attorney or other legal authority to sign the arbitration agreement on the plaintiff’s behalf. The opinion clarifies that the authority of family members to place a person in an RCFE does not include authorization to waive the resident’s legal right to seek redress through the courts. 

Further, Theresa D. explains that a court — not an arbitrator — should determine whether an arbitration clause is valid when there is no preliminary finding that the parties agreed to arbitrate in the first place.. 

The opinion will help ensure that seniors who need care do not lose their rights to access the courts simply because they live in an RCFE. 

The Center was joined in its publication request by a group of distinguished legal services organizations, including Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, the National Consumer Law Center, the Public Law Center, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.