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THI of Pennsylvania at Mountainview, LLC v. McLaughlin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 6, 2015

THI OF PENNSYLVANIA AT MOUNTAINVIEW, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES L. McLAUGHLIN by and through his Attorney-In-Fact, MARY F. McLAUGHLIN, Defendant.

OPINION Re: ECF No. 5

MAUREEN P. KELLY, Chief Magistrate Judge.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff THI of Pennsylvania at Mountainview, LLC ("THI"), is the operator of a skilled nursing home in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Defendant James L. McLaughlin was a resident at THI's facility. During his residency, it is alleged that Mr. McLaughlin suffered several injuries as a result of the negligent care received by him, including fractures occasioned by multiple falls, various severe infections, dehydration and caloric malnutrition, weight loss of 21 pounds in thirty days, poor hygiene and severe pain.

On August 7, 2014, Mr. McLaughlin, by and through his Attorney-in-Fact (and wife), Mary F. McLaughlin, filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County alleging claims against Plaintiff and others for, inter alia, negligence (professional and ordinary), corporate negligence, custodial neglect, and punitive damages.

In response to Mr. McLaughlin's lawsuit, on November 26, 2014, THI filed a Complaint to Compel Arbitration and Stay State Court Proceedings in this Court (ECF No. 1), pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. ยงยง 1-16 ("FAA"), and the terms of the Admission Contract and Voluntary Arbitration Agreement ("the Agreement") executed on behalf of Mr. McLaughlin prior to his admission to Plaintiff's facility.

The Agreement provides as follows:

A. Arbitration Provisions.
1.1. It is understood by Resident and/or his Representative that he or she is not required to use the aforesaid Facility for Resident's healthcare needs and that there are numerous other health care providers in the State where Facility is located that are qualified to provide such care. Execution of the Agreement is voluntary and not a condition of admission.
1.2 It is further understood that in the event of any controversy or dispute between the parties arising out of or relating to Facility's Admission Agreement, or breach thereof, or relating in any way to Resident's stay at Facility, or to the provisions of care or services to Resident, including but not limited to any alleged tort, personal injury, negligence or other claim; or any federal or state statutory or regulatory claim of any kind; or whether or not there has been a violation of any right(s) granted under State law (collectively "Disputes"), and the parties are unable to resolve such through negotiation, then the parties agree that such Dispute(s) shall be resolved by arbitration.
* * *
RESIDENT/REPRESENTATIVE UNDERSTANDS AND AGREES THAT HE/SHE IS GIVING UP AND WAIVING HIS/HER RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL.

(ECF No. 5-3). This agreement was signed on April 7, 2013, by Mrs. McLaughlin on her husband's behalf.

Mr. McLaughlin has filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 5), contending that because the Agreement was not signed by an authorized representative of THI, it is not binding on the parties. In addition, Mr. McLaughlin argues that the Agreement does not evidence a transaction in interstate commerce and therefore falls outside of the scope of the FAA. Alternatively, Mr. McLaughlin seeks an order allowing discovery as to the circumstances surrounding the presentation and execution of the Agreement.

For the following reasons, the Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5) is denied. Further, because discovery is requested as to the limited issue of the circumstances surrounding the execution of the Agreement, Mr. ...


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