Amicus: Submitted June 5, 2023
In an amicus brief* submitted to the California Supreme Court, Compassion & Choices (C&C) joined the Consumer Attorneys of California, American Association for Justice and Public Justice to argue that an advance directive does not authorize an agent to bind a principal to optional arbitration, because whether to arbitrate is a decision affecting future legal rights and is not a “healthcare decision.”
The case, Logan v. Country Oaks Partners, arose after a California nursing home attempted to compel arbitration when Charles Logan, a nursing home resident who executed an advance directive and named his nephew as his agent, brought a lawsuit against Country Oaks alleging elder abuse and neglect, negligence, and violation of the California Residents’ Bill of Rights. His nephew previously signed an optional arbitration agreement on Logan’s behalf. Logan argued that his advance directive only authorized his nephew to make “healthcare decisions” on his behalf, and because arbitration is not a healthcare decision, he was not bound to arbitration. The California Court of Appeal agreed with Logan in a decision in August 2022. Country Oaks appealed the decision to the California Supreme Court.
C&C, along with its coalition partners, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Logan. In the brief we argued that advance directives are meant to protect and effectuate an individual’s personal autonomy to make healthcare decisions in case of future incapacity. As a result, advance directives should not be construed to grant power beyond that which the principal intended, or even contemplated, when they signed their advance directive. To do so would undermine the principal’s personal autonomy and frustrate the intent of the California Legislature when they created the Health Care Decisions Law, which recognizes and protects an individual’s right to an advance directive. Because an arbitration agreement is not a “healthcare decision,” individuals with advance directives do not intend to grant their agents the power to sign an agreement waiving their constitutional right to a jury trial.
A decision in the matter is forthcoming. This page will be updated once the California Supreme Court issues its decision.
Compassion & Choices is committed to ensuring patients are able to direct their care at the end of life. To learn more about our legal advocacy work, please visit our Legal Advocacy webpage.
*Amicus curiae is Latin for “friend of the court.” Amicus briefs are commonly submitted by anyone wanting to make a point relating to a court case that the litigating parties are not addressing.