Arbitration – Apparent Authority of Daughter to Sign on Behalf of Mother


Ball Healthcare Services, Inc., etc. v. Flennory, [Ms. 1200843, Aug. 19, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2022). The Court (Parker, C.J.; Shaw, Bryan, Mendheim, and Mitchell, JJ., concur) reverses the Dallas Circuit Court’s order denying Ball Healthcare Services, Inc.’s (“Ball Healthcare”) motion to compel arbitration of a wrongful death claim arising from the death of Rosa Lee McCreary, a resident of a skilled nursing facility operated by Ball Healthcare. McCreary’s daughter, Jacqueline Williams, signed the admission paperwork which contained an arbitration agreement. The circuit court concluded the arbitration provision was unenforceable because Williams did not validly sign the documents on behalf of McCreary who was mentally competent and physically able to sign. Ms. **4-5.

The Court first explains “[t]he doctrine of apparent authority rests upon the principle of estoppel, which forbids one by his acts to give an agent an appearance of authority which he does not have and to benefit from such ... conduct to the detriment of one who has acted in reliance upon such appearance.” Patterson v. Page Aircraft Maint., Inc., 51 Ala. App. 122, 126, 283 So. 2d 433, 437 (Civ. App. 1973).” Ms. * 8. Regarding the burden of proof “once a nursing-home defendant submits an arbitration agreement that appears on its face to have been signed by a person with authority, the burden is then on the plaintiff to submit evidence that the signatory lacked apparent authority. Such evidence could include circumstances that put the defendant on notice that the signatory lacked authority, such as a prior or contemporaneous objection by the resident.” Ms. * 11. The Court enforces the arbitration provision because “the burden was on Flennory [the personal representative of McCreary’s Estate] to show that Williams lacked apparent authority to sign the arbitration agreement. Like the plaintiffs in the prior cases, Flennory submitted no evidence to negate Williams’s apparent authority, such as evidence that Ball Healthcare was on notice of an objection by McCreary.” Ms. *12.

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