Modrall Sperling gets favorable decision in New Mexico Supreme Court

G. Brown and Deana M. Bennett, attorneys with the law firm Modrall Sperling in
Albuquerque, New Mexico,  received a
favorable decision from the New Mexico Supreme Court in the THI of New
Mexico at Vida Encantada, LLC, et al. v. Celia Archuleta, as personal
representative for the Estate of Abelina Lucero, deceased,
No. 33,618, a
case which was certified to the New Mexico Supreme Court from the United States
District Court for the District of New Mexico.     Ms. Brown and
Ms. Bennett participated in the case as amicus for the New Mexico Healthcare
Association, and urged the court to quash certification.   In a nutshell,
the federal court tendered to the Supreme Court the opportunity to issue a
decision on several certified questions of critical importance to the long-term
care community and its efforts at enforcement of arbitration clauses in nursing
home contracts.  These questions included whether an authorized agent can
commit a resident to arbitrating any disputes which may come up with the
nursing home, and whether the wrongful death beneficiaries are bound by such an
election in favor of arbitrating disputes. 

The parties briefed both the procedural issue of whether
certification was appropriate, given the existence of controlling New Mexico
law and the merits of the case.  Ms. Brown and Ms. Bennett argued that
controlling precedent of the Court of Appeals concluded that an agent,
with authority to admit a resident to a nursing home, has the authority to bind
the resident to an arbitration agreement contained within the admission
documents.  Ms. Brown and Ms.
Bennett pointed to the uninterrupted line of New Mexico cases construing the
New Mexico Wrongful Death Act as a survival act and as derivative to
demonstrate both that controlling New Mexico precedent exits to answer the
certified question and that New Mexico precedent confirms that the wrongful
death estate is bound, just as the decedent would have been bound.  After
briefing and oral argument, the New Mexico Supreme Court quashed certification
on the basis that there is adequate authority on the issues to guide the
federal court, as urged by Ms. Brown and Ms. Bennett.  This result
provides our long-term care clients a strong basis to argue in current and
future cases that the Court would not rule for plaintiffs on these issues.


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