Heaphy v. Willow Canyon Healthcare, Inc. – 5/18/2021

June 7, 2021

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two holds that an arbitration agreement signed by an agent acting under the terms of a health care power of attorney does not bind the principal if the arbitration agreement was not within the scope of the agent’s authority to make health care decisions for the principal.

A husband appointed his wife as his agent in a Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA) contract. When the husband was later admitted to a healthcare facility, the wife signed his admission paperwork, including an “optional” Agreement to Arbitrate Disputes (the “Agreement”).  The husband later died and the estate (and others) sued for a variety of claims relating to the death.  Defendant tried to compel arbitration of the claims.  The superior court denied the motion because, among other reasons, the wife lacked authority to sign the Agreement.  Defendant appealed.

Division Two of the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the wife’s scope of authority under the HPOA did not authorize her to enter into the Agreement.  Importantly, the HPOA gave the wife only authority to make decisions regarding the husband’s healthcare.  Because the Agreement was optional and not required for the husband to be admitted into treatment, it was not a healthcare decision as contemplated by the HPOA. The Defendant also argued that the wife had implied actual authority because there was other evidence that the wife generally had control of the husband’s healthcare decisions.  But again, the Court reasoned the Agreement was not a healthcare decision.

Judge Espinosa authored the opinion of the Court.  Vice Chief Judge Staring and Judge Eckerstrom concurred.