In denying a nursing home’s motion to enforce an arbitration against one of its residents, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania (“Pennsylvania Appellate Court”) stated in its non-precedential Decision field on March 5, 2021: “the Facility offered a classic contract of adhesion to a vulnerable man in need of medical assistance, not as a voluntary agreement but as a requirement for his admission. The arbitration agreement unreasonably favored the Facility, not requiring it to waive any litigation rights and allowing it to unilaterally change the terms and evict Decedent if he did not accept the modification. The trial court did not err, abuse its discretion, or violate the FAA in concluding that the arbitration agreement herein was invalid based upon the generally applicable contract defense of unconscionability. As there was no valid agreement to arbitrate, the trial court properly overruled Defendants’ preliminary objections.”
The Underlying Facts
Admissions Coordinator Kara Calandrelli secured Decedent’s signature on the paperwork attendant to his admission to the Facility. Ms. Calandrelli followed her usual routine of meeting with the new resident in his room and spending forty-five minutes to an hour going through the twenty-page admission agreement. Her customary procedure was to involve a family member or the Erie Office on Aging in the process if the new resident was incompetent or visually impaired. However, she obtained Decedent’s signature on the agreement without any family present despite having been assessed by a nursing home nurse upon admission who found that Decedent suffered from dementia, depression, and poor vision in both eyes with or without glasses.
Page sixteen of the twenty-page admission agreement contained an arbitration agreement. Nowhere in the written agreement does it indicate that the arbitration provision was optional or voluntary, and Ms. Calandrelli did not advise Decedent that he did not have to sign this agreement to receive care at the Facility. Notably, the arbitration provision of the agreement lacked spaces for checking “yes” or “no” that were used elsewhere in the document to accept or reject other “voluntary” provisions – there was merely a line where Decedent affixed his initials.
After completing the admission process, Decedent resided at the facility for six months until he was admitted to the hospital with a fever, tachycardia, altered mental status, oxygen saturation of 84%, sepsis, and previously-uncharted pressure ulcers. Decedent did not recover, dying in the hospital on September 26, 2015.
Source Lomax v. Care One, LLC, J-S55004-20.
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