Can a Husband Bind His Wife to an Arbitration Agreement

In Flores v. Evergreen at San Diego, LLC (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 581, the husband signed two arbitration agreements upon admitting his wife, who was suffering from dementia, into a skilled nursing facility. (Id. at pp. 584-585.) At the time, he did not hold a power of attorney on her behalf, and had not been appointed as either her guardian or her conservator. (Id. at p. 585.) The husband and wife filed a complaint against the facility, alleging that its staff was responsible for the wife's leg fracture, suffered in a fall. (Ibid.) The facility filed a petition to compel arbitration, based on the arbitration agreements the husband had signed. (Id. at p. 586.) The trial court denied the petition and the appellate court affirmed. (Flores, supra, 148 Cal.App.4th at pp. 584-585.) In reaching its decision, the appellate court first addressed whether the husband had authority either as the wife's agent or as her spouse to bind her to the arbitration agreements. (Id. at pp. 587-589.) It concluded that he had no such authority. (Ibid.) The court then addressed, in the alternative, whether the husband had statutory authority, under various Health and Safety Code provisions pertaining to skilled nursing facilities, to bind the wife to the arbitration agreements. It answered that question in the negative as well. (Id. at pp. 590-594.)