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Portfolio One, LLC v. Joie

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 23, 2019

PORTFOLIO ONE, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
GINA M. JOIE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          JOSEPH H. RODRIGUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of whether the parties should be compelled to arbitrate their case of nursing home neglect. Having considered the parties' submissions, the Court decides this matter without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons stated below, this Court denies Defendants' motion for summary judgment and grants Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment.

         Background

         Plaintiffs Portfolio One, LLC d/b/a ManorCare Health Services-Washington Township, HCR ManorCare, Inc., and ManorCare Health Services, LLC filed a Complaint before this Court to compel arbitration of a dispute with Defendants Gina M. Joie and Danielle N. Griffith, executors of the estate of their father, John T. Bombara, who had been a patient in Plaintiffs' facility when he passed away on July 7, 2014.

         On February 24, 2013, Defendant Danielle N. Griffith signed a document titled Voluntary Arbitration Agreement (“Agreement”) on behalf of decedent John T. Bombara with respect to decedent's admission to the Plaintiffs' licensed skilled-nursing facility. At that time, Griffith held a General Durable Power of Attorney executed by her father in 2011, authorizing her to “defend, settle, adjust, compound, submit to arbitration and compromise all actions, suits, accounts, reckonings, claims and demands whatsoever that are now, or hereafter shall be, pending between [her father] and any person, firm, association or corporation, in such manner and in all respects as [Griffith] shall think fit[.]”

         The top of the first page of the Agreement stated, in bold, capitalized lettering:

THE PARTIES ARE WAIVING THEIR RIGHT TO A TRIAL BEFORE A JUDGE OR JURY OF ANY DISPUTE BETWEEN THEM. PLEASE READ CAREFULLY BEFORE SIGNING. THE PATIENT WILL RECEIVE SERVICES IN THIS CENTER WHETHER OR NOT THIS AGREEMENT IS SIGNED. ARBITRATION IS DESCRIBED IN THE VOLUNTARY ARBITRATION PROGRAM BROCHURE COPY, ATTACHED AND MADE PART OF THIS AGREEMENT.

         Paragraph 1 of the Agreement provides, in relevant part:

1. Agreement to Arbitrate “Disputes”: All claims arising out of or relating to this Agreement, the Admission Agreement or any and all past or future admissions of the Patient at this Center, or any sister Center operated by any subsidiary of HCR ManorCare, Inc. (“Sister Center”), including claims for malpractice, shall be submitted to arbitration.

         Paragraph 3 of the Agreement states, in relevant part, that the “Parties agree and intend that this Agreement, the Admission Agreement, and the Patient's stays at the Center substantially involve interstate commerce, and stipulate that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and applicable federal case law apply to this Agreement, [and] preempt any inconsistent State law[.]” Paragraph 5 of the Agreement states:

5. Sole Decision Maker: Except as otherwise provided in 6 below, the [Arbitration] Panel is empowered to, and shall, resolve all disputes, including without limitation, any disputes about the making, validity, enforceability, scope, interpretation, voidability, unconscionability, preemption, severability, and/or waiver of this Agreement or the Admission Agreement, as well as resolve the Parties' underlying disputes, as it is the Parties' intent to avoid involving the court system.

         Paragraph 8 of the Agreement allows the signatory to cancel the Agreement within thirty (30) days of signing by sending written notice via certified mail. Paragraph 8 also states “[i]f not cancelled, this Agreement shall be binding on the Patient for this and all of Patient's subsequent admissions to the Center or any Sister Center without any need for further renewal.”

         Immediately preceding the signature block of the Agreement, the following text appears:

THE PARTIES CONFIRM THAT EACH OF THEM UNDERSTANDS THAT EACH HAS WAIVED THE RIGHT TO A TRIAL BEFORE A JUDGE OR JURY AND THAT EACH CONSENTS TO ALL OF THE TERMS OF THIS VOLUNTARY AGREEMENT. PATIENT ACKNOWLEDGES THE RIGHT TO REVIEW ...

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