Matthews v. Sherwood Assisted Living, Inc.
Ah, human greed and cruelty, why are you so prevalent? Matthews arose out of the actions of two relatives of an incapacitated elder living in an assisted living facility. After a State Ombudsman’s investigation and report revealed (the court uses the kinder word “suggested”) that the relatives were siphoning money off of grampa, an employee of the facility petitioned the court to appoint a guardian ad-litem (GAL).
Now, I don’t really want to speculate beyond the facts presented in the opinion, but the situation had reached that point, it must have been quite bad. Nonetheless, the relatives doubled-down on the greed by trying to move Mr. Matthews to California, out of his erstwhile home of six years, and the GAL petitioned for a temporary restraining order. (TRO) Because a TRO petition is to be accompanied by a bond, the trial court ordered the facility to one up in the amount of $10,000. When the facility refused, the court denied the TRO (allowing the relatives to move grampa to California), dismissed the GAL petition, and awarded attorney fees to the relatives. Ouch.
Thankfully, Division II don’t play that, and reversed the trial court:
We hold that a GAL appointed under RCW 11.96A.160 or former RCW 11.88.010 has an agency relationship with the court much like a permanent guardian or limited guardian appointed under the Trust and Estate Dispute Resolution Act (TEDRA) (ch. 11.96A RCW) has with the court. . . . A GAL is not an agent of a guardianship petitioner. A GAL makes recommendations and takes actions free of a petitioning parties’ vested interests. See former RCW 11.88.090(3)(a). Thus, the petitioner for a guardianship cannot be held liable for the GAL’s actions taken during the guardianship petitioning process and vice versa.
This decision makes sense on a number of levels, but the main point is that unless an interested third party is petitioning for a GAL unreasonably or in bad faith, isn’t this exactly the outcome we as a society want to see? I would think so, and I’m glad the court read the statutes that way.