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Golden Gate National Senior Care, LLC v. Lane

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 4, 2015

GOLDEN GATE NATIONAL SENIOR CARE, LLC, et al., Petitioners,
v.
SANDRA M. LANE, as Executrix for the Estate of PAULINE M. ROHRBACH, deceased, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

A. RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Presently before me are Respondent's[1] Motion to Dismiss the Petition for Order Compelling Arbitration (Doc. 7) and Petitioners'[2] Motion to Compel Alternative Dispute Resolution. (Doc. 9.) Because subject-matter jurisdiction over the action exists and abstention under the Colorado River doctrine is not appropriate, Respondent's motion to dismiss will be denied. As to Petitioners' motion to compel, because it is not subject to review pursuant to the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, the motion to compel will be denied without prejudice and the parties will be permitted to engage in limited discovery. But, because a stay of the proceedings commenced by Respondent in state court is necessary to aid in the exercise of jurisdiction over this action, the state court proceedings will be stayed during the pendency of the Petition for Order Compelling Alternative Dispute Resolution.

I. Background

On July 30, 2012, Rohrbach was admitted into the Golden Living Center- Tunkhannock facility, a nursing home located in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1, ¶ 20.) Rohrbach died on August 28, 2012. (Id . at Ex. A, ¶ 1.) Respondent Lane, Rohrbach's daughter and the Executrix of her mother's estate, filed a writ of summons against Petitioners in the Court of Common Pleas of Wyoming County, Pennsylvania on June 20, 2014 (the "state action"). (Id . at ¶ 30.) Named as defendants in the state action are Petitioners, as well as Denise Curry ("Curry"), Petitioners' regional vice president and a citizen of Pennsylvania. (Id . at Ex. A, ¶ 28.) Respondent ultimately filed the complaint in the state action on or about September 19, 2014, and the complaint asserts claims against Petitioners and Curry relating to the treatment and care of Rohrbach during her stay at Golden Living Center-Tunkhannock. (Id . at Ex. A.) On October 8, 2014, Petitioners filed preliminary objections in the state action, raising, among other objections, that the matter should be sent to alternative dispute resolution pursuant to the parties' Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement ("ADR Agreement"). (Doc. 13, 5.) That same day, Petitioners filed the instant Petition for Order Compelling Alternative Dispute Resolution in this Court, seeking to compel alternative dispute resolution, to stay the state action, and to grant declaratory relief. (Doc. 1.)

Petitioners contend that Lane had express authority to act on behalf of Rohrbach under a Durable Power of Attorney Agreement ("POA Agreement"), dated February 22, 2007. (Doc. 1, ¶ 22 and Ex. C.) Petitioners also assert that pursuant to the POA Agreement, Lane, on Rohrbach's behalf, entered into a valid ADR Agreement when she was admitted to the Golden Living Center. (Id . at ¶ 21 and Ex. B.) The ADR Agreement provides that it "applies to any and all disputes arising out of or in any way relating to this Agreement or to [Rohrbach's] stay at the Facility, " and that any disputes covered by the ADR Agreement "shall be resolved exclusively by an ADR process that shall include mediation and, where mediation is not successful, binding arbitration." (Id . at Ex. B, 1-2.) The first page of the ADR Agreement includes the following provision:

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, THE OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT THEIR CLAIMS AS A CLASS ACTION AND/OR TO APPEAL ANY DECISION OR AWARD OF DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE ADR PROCESS EXCEPT AS PROVIDED HEREIN.

(Id . at Ex. B, 1 (emphasis in original).)

On October 29, 2014, Respondent moved to dismiss the Petition. (Doc. 7.) Respondent contends that the Petition should be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, that I should abstain from exercising jurisdiction over the action, and that I lack authority to grant the stay requested by Petitioners. (Doc. 8.) Petitioners filed a timely brief in opposition to Respondent's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 13.)

While Respondent's motion to dismiss was pending, Petitioners filed a motion to compel alternative dispute resolution. (Doc. 9.) Respondent filed a timely brief in opposition to the motion on November 14, 2014, (Doc. 14), and Petitioners filed a reply brief in further support of their motion on November 21, 2014. (Doc. 17.) The motion to dismiss and motion to compel are now fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss

Respondent raises three arguments in support of her motion to dismiss. First, she contends that subject-matter jurisdiction is lacking because Petitioners failed to join a necessary and indispensable party to this proceeding, i.e., Curry, and as she is a citizen of Pennsylvania, her presence as a party in this proceeding would defeat diversity jurisdiction.[3] Second, Respondent asserts that the Petition should be dismissed pursuant to the Colorado River doctrine. Lastly, she claims that I lack authority to grant the Petition under the Anti- Injunction Act.

Although these issues are before me for the first time, two of my colleagues on this Court recently addressed these exact issues in cases that are nearly identical to the instant action. See GGNSC Equity Holdings, LLC v. Breslin, No. 14-450, 2014 WL 5463856 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 27, 2014) (Caldwell, J.); Golden Gate Nat'l Senior Care, LLC v. Addison, 14-421, 2014 WL 4792386 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 24, 2014) (Rambo, J.). And, like Judge Caldwell and Judge Rambo, I will deny the motion to dismiss the Petition for Order Compelling Alternative Dispute Resolution.

First, Curry is not an indispensable party under Rule 19 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 19 sets forth a two-step process: (1) first I must determine whether the absent party is "necessary" under Rule 19(a); and (2) if the party is "necessary" and joinder is not feasible, then I must decide whether the party is "indispensable" under Rule 19(b). See, e.g., Gen. Refractories Co. v. First State Ins. Co., 500 F.3d 306, 312 (3d Cir. 2007). If a party is then held to be indispensable under Rule 19(b), "the action cannot go ...


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