Ruesga v. Kindred Nursing Centers West – 7/18/2007

July 31, 2007

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That A Wife Has Actual Agency Authority to Bind Her Husband to an Arbitration Agreement Even Without A Power of Attorney, Legal Guardianship, or His Express Authorization.

On November 10, 2003, Robert Ruesga was admitted to Desert life Rehabilitation and Care Center in a severely compromised state. At the time Robert was admitted, his wife Florentine Ruesga was given several admission documents including an Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) agreement that required disputes to proceed to binding arbitration and waived Robert’s right to a jury trial. Florentine signed the ADR agreement as Robert’s legal representative and brought this action against the hospital several months later.

The Court affirmed, holding that: (1) failure to request an evidentiary hearing on the existence of an agency relationship allows the Court to decide the issue on the record even where there are genuinely disputed factual issues; (2) sufficient evidence supported the trial court’s determination that Florentine had an implied actual agency relationship with her husband.

Practice Note: The court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction but exercised its discretion to treat the appeal as a petition for special action because there was no equally plain, speedy, or adequate remedy by appeal and some of the issues raised were purely legal.

Judge Pelander wrote for the unanimous panel. Judges Howard and Vasquez concurred.