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New Cases of Interest - December 16, 2013
Goldman v. Sunbridge Healthcare, LLC (2013) 22 Cal.App.4th 1160. This is an action which involves the non-enforceability of an arbitration agreement when a wife placed her husband in a skilled nursing facility. The wife signed the admission forms on behalf of the husband, although he was competent to do so, and the admission agreements contained arbitration provisions. The wife subsequently brought an action against the skilled nursing facility claiming neglect which resulted in her husband's death and bringing an action on his behalf as well as one for negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death on her behalf.
The trial court denied arbitration as to both matters, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal. The Court found that there was no evidence that the decedent had agreed to have his wife sign arbitration agreements or make healthcare decisions for him while he was still capable of making those for himself, and the relationship of husband and wife was not sufficient to provide authority for her to sign for him, because agency could not be implied from the marriage relation alone. The labeling of the wife as the decedent's "representative" on the form did not confer upon her decision making authority for the husband. The Court further determined that the wife was not bound by the arbitration provisions because she was not a party to the arbitration agreements and did not sign them in her individual capacity.
Steiner v. Superior Court (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1479. This is a case in which a trial court had ordered the plaintiff's attorney to remove two pages from the attorney's website which discussed her success in similar cases. The court was concerned that the website references would unduly prejudice the jury process during trial and deliberations. The Court of Appeal denied the attorney's subsequent petition for writ of mandate, but held in doing so that the trial court's order was an unlawful prior restraint on the attorney's free speech rights, but denied relief on the basis that the order was no longer in effect in that the underlying trial had concluded. The Court found that the admonitions given to the jury and instructions not to view counsel's website or any other information on the web was a presumptively adequate means of addressing the threat of jury contamination.