United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.
We are considering three motions: a motion to dismiss; a motion to compel alternative dispute resolution; and a motion to strike. This matter relates to a petition to compel arbitration filed by Petitioners on August 6, 2014. (Doc. 1). On August 20, 2014, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the petition. (Doc. 8). While the motion to dismiss was pending, Petitioners filed a motion seeking to compel alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and to stay state court proceedings. (Doc. 9). Petitioners filed another motion on September 24, 2004. (Doc. 18). That motion seeks to strike portions of Respondent's brief in opposition to the motion to compel ADR. For the reasons discussed below, we will deny Respondent's motion to dismiss, deny Petitioners' motion to compel ADR, grant
Petitioners' motion to stay state court proceedings, and deny Petitioners' motion to strike.
On April 23, 2010, John P. Breslin was admitted as a resident of Golden Living Center - Camp Hill, a skilled nursing facility. (Doc. 8 at 2; Doc. 12 at 2). He died on September 27, 2013 while living at the Golden Living Center. (Doc. 8 at 2; Doc. 12 at 3). Respondent, executrix of Mr. Breslin's estate, filed a writ of summons against Petitioners in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County on January 6, 2014. (Doc. 8 at 2). Named as defendants in the state action are Petitioners, as well as Denise Curry. (Id.). Denise Curry is the regional vice president of Petitioners and a Pennsylvania resident. (Doc. 12 at 5). On July 23, 2014, Respondent served a complaint in the state action. (Id.). The complaint claims that Petitioners and Curry were negligent in the care and treatment of John Breslin. (Doc. 1-2). On August 6, 2014, Petitioners filed preliminary objections to Respondent's complaint, seeking to enforce an alternative dispute resolution agreement (ADR agreement). (Doc. 12 at 5). On the same date, Petitioners filed the instant petition with this court, seeking to compel arbitration, stay the state proceedings, and seeking declaratory relief. (Id.).
Petitioners claim that John Breslin executed a Durable Power of Attorney on August 25, 2005, under which Martha M. Zeiders was appointed as his agent. (Doc. 12 at 2). Petitioners assert that pursuant to the Durable Power of Attorney, when Mr. Breslin was admitted to the Golden Living Center, Zeiders entered into a valid ADR agreement on his behalf. (Doc. 12 at 3). The ADR agreement provides that "any and all disputes arising out of or in any way relating to [the ADR agreement] or [John Breslin's] stay at the Facility... shall be resolved exclusively by an ADR process that shall include mediation and, where mediation is not successful, binding arbitration." (Doc. 1-3 at 3). Additionally, in bold capital letters, it states that the parties "UNDERSTAND, ACKNOWLEDGE, AND AGREE THAT THEY ARE SELECTING A METHOD OF RESOLVING DISPUTES WITHOUT RESORTING TO LAWSUITS OR THE COURTS, AND THAT BY ENTERING INTO THIS AGREEMENT, THEY ARE GIVING UP THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO HAVE THEIR DISPUTES DECIDED IN A COURT OF LAW BY A JUDGE OR JURY...." (Doc. 1-3 at 2).
Asserting various grounds, Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the petition to compel arbitration. (Doc. 8). While that was pending, Petitioners filed a motion to compel ADR. (Doc. 9). Respondent opposed the motion by making numerous arguments to attack the validity of the agreement, including that Zeiders never signed the agreement. (Doc. 17-1). Finally, Petitioners filed a motion to strike portions of Respondent's brief in opposition. (Doc. 18).
A. Motion to Dismiss
Respondent makes four arguments to support her motion to dismiss. First, she claims that the petition was not served in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4. Next, she argues that Petitioners failed to join an indispensable party and the compulsory joinder of that party causes us to lose subject matter jurisdiction. Third, Respondent asserts that we should dismiss the petition under the Colorado River abstention doctrine. Last, she claims that, pursuant to the Anti-Injunction Act, we lack authority to grant the petition.
1. Service of Process
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(e) provides that an individual within a judicial district may be served by (1) following state law for serving a summons, (2) delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the individual personally, (3) leaving a copy of each at the individual's dwelling or usual place of abode with someone of suitable age and discretion who resides there, or (4) delivering a copy of each to an agent. FED. R. CIV. P. 4(e). Here, a private firm served the petition upon Respondent by leaving a copy with the manager of Respondent's apartment complex. (Doc. 8-2 at 2). Respondent argues that such service was insufficient under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4. We disagree.
First, Respondent argues that the service did not comply with Pennsylvania law. Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 400 dictates that original process must be served by a sheriff. PA. R. CIV. P. 400. Here, the petition was served by a firm hired to serve process, not by a sheriff. Accordingly, we agree the service did not satisfy Pennsylvania law. Next, Respondent argues that process was not served on Respondent personally and was not served upon her agent. These contentions are not refuted by Petitioners. Last, Respondent argues that the petition was not left at her dwelling with someone of suitable age and discretion who resides there because the apartment complex ...