In its decision dated October 23, 2019, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division (“New Jersey Appellate Court”) held: “Because it is undisputed that the arbitration agreement was mixed in with a number of other admission documents, it was not explained to Ricciardi [the plaintiff], nor was he given a copy, we affirm.”
The Underlying Facts
Ricciardi was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and bipolar disorder in his late twenties. Ricciardi’s New Jersey nursing home complaint alleges that Kindred’s facility and staff negligence caused him to develop multiple advanced stage pressure ulcers, resulting in “great pain, suffering, disability, loss of quality of life and medical expense.”
When admitted, the nursing staff assessed Ricciardi, finding he responded appropriately to questions, was cooperative, followed instructions, and was not confused, lethargic, uncooperative, restless, or anxious. Although Ricciardi’s severe medical conditions do have some effect on his cognition, he did not claim that he was cognitively impaired at the time. He had been administered various medications that affected his ability to concentrate, however, and at the time of admission he was dizzy, nauseous, and light-headed.
While being admitted, Ricciardi was presented with twelve admission documents requiring signature. The “Voluntary Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement Between Patient And Hospital[,]” (“arbitration agreement”) was included in that packet. As instructed, Ricciardi signed the admission paperwork in twelve different places. The time noted by his signatures indicated he signed every document within one minute. Ricciardi was provided copies of three admission documents, but not of the arbitration agreement. This despite the fact the arbitration agreement stated his signature was not a precondition to treatment, and that he could cancel the arbitration agreement within five days.
The Kindred employee who walked Ricciardi through the process did not explain the arbitration agreement to Ricciardi. He was only told he needed to sign all the paperwork. Ricciardi’s affidavit states he first learned of his waiver of his right to a judicial forum only when Kindred filed the motion to dismiss his New Jesrey nursing home complaint.
New Jersey Appellate Court Decision
The New Jersey Appellate Court stated: “the problems with the formation of the contract were so consequential as to alone warrant denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration … as a matter of law, the arbitration agreement lacked the mutuality of assent necessary for it to be binding on both parties. Like Moore, the plaintiff in Woman to Woman, Ricciardi was not given a copy of the agreement. Ricciardi was not given an explanation of the agreement any more than was Moore. Ricciardi and Moore were simultaneously presented a number of forms related to medical treatment and the provision of services. Moore was not alerted by the person who obtained her signature about arbitration, nor was Ricciardi. Because Kindred failed to give him a copy of the document, Ricciardi, like Moore, had no realistic opportunity in which to review the arbitration agreement or consult about it with others … Given the facts, as a matter of law, the agreement was unenforceable.”
Source Ricciardi v. Abingdon Care & Rehabilitation Center, Docket No. A-3255-18T1.
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