Westwood Hall Hebrew Home v. Barbour

A-7102-96T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1998) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: December 18, 1998

CONTRACTS; ATTORNEY-IN-FACT—Even if a contract states that the signer is personally obligated thereunder, someone who signs with an indication that he or she is acting as an attorney-in-fact is not so personally liable.

An elderly woman gave a general power of attorney to an attorney who was a long time family friend. Upon the woman’s admission to a nursing home, the attorney-in-fact was presented with an agreement that included a provision making the resident’s “sponsor,” as well as the resident herself, responsible for all charges that she might incur. The attorney-in-fact, signed the document, but beneath his signature he indicated that he signed only on behalf of the resident. At the time of the woman’s death, she left a large, unpaid balance. When the nursing home claimed that the attorney-in-fact was liable for the debt as the “sponsor,” the Court found that, as an attorney-in-fact, he was not personally liable for the debt. On the other hand, during the course of his principal’s stay at the nursing home, he wrote several letters to the home promising to make payments from “my pocket” until the outstanding balance was paid in full. The Court found that the nursing home relied on those promises and allowed its resident to stay in the home, despite climbing bills. Subsequent letters from the attorney-in-fact were interpreted by the Court as promises that amounted to a continuing guarantee of its resident’s lodging charges and, based upon those letters written in his own name, and not as the attorney-in-fact, the attorney-in-fact was found liable for the balance owing at the time of the resident’s death.