New York Appellate Court Refuses To Enforce Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement

The New York Appellate Division, Second Department (“New York Appellate Court”), in its decision dated November 4, 2020, refused to enforce a nursing home arbitration agreement, stating that the nursing home “failed to demonstrate that the resident, or William as her representative, by word, act, or conduct evinced an intention to be bound by the terms of the arbitration agreement. Since the evidence failed to show a clear, explicit, and unequivocal agreement to arbitrate, the plaintiff may not be compelled to arbitrate.”

The Underlying Facts

The plaintiff alleged that while the resident was staying at Richmond Center for Rehabilitation and Specialty Healthcare Center (“Richmond Center”), she developed decubitus ulcers, pressure ulcers, or bedsores, which caused sepsis and led to her death. The resident was suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which rendered her unable to speak or move. Her son, nonparty William Puglia (“William”), had power of attorney for her and was designated her agent under a health care proxy. As part of the admissions process, Lisa Rodriguez (“Rodriguez”), Richmond Center’s director of finance, explained the admission agreement and the arbitration agreement to the resident and offered to read the agreements in their entirety to her, but the resident declined by blinking twice for “no.” Rodriguez then executed the admission agreement and the arbitration agreement on the resident’s behalf by writing “unable to sign” or “uts” wherever the resident’s signature was required. Rodriguez claims that she subsequently requested that William execute the admission agreement and the arbitration agreement on the resident’s behalf, but he refused. William disputes ever being presented with or asked to execute the agreements.

Defendant SV Operating Three, LLC, doing business as Richmond Center for Rehabilitation and Specialty Healthcare, moved pursuant to CPLR 7503 to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s New York nursing home wrongful death claims and stay all proceedings in the action pending arbitration. In an order dated January 17, 2018, the Supreme Court granted those branches of Richmond Center’s motion. The plaintiff appealed.

New York Appellate Court Decision

The New York Appellate Court stated that an arbitration clause in a written agreement is enforceable, even if the agreement is not signed, when it is evident that the parties intended to be bound by the contract. The manifestation or expression of assent necessary to form a contract may be by word, act, or conduct which evinces the intention of the parties to contract. A party to an agreement may not be compelled to arbitrate its dispute with another unless the evidence establishes the parties’ clear, explicit and unequivocal agreement to arbitrate.

The New York Appellate Court held: “Here, Richmond Center failed to demonstrate that the resident, or William as her representative, by word, act, or conduct evinced an intention to be bound by the terms of the arbitration agreement. Since the evidence failed to show a clear, explicit, and unequivocal agreement to arbitrate, the plaintiff may not be compelled to arbitrate (see id.). Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have denied those branches of Richmond Center’s motion which were pursuant to CPLR 7503 to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claims and stay all proceedings in the action pending arbitration.”

Source Pankiv v. Richmond Center for Rehabilitation and Specialty Healthcare Center, 2020 NY Slip Op 06279.

If you or a loved one may have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in a nursing home in New York or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a New York medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your nursing home medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a nursing home medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 26th, 2020 at 5:26 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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