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Washburn v. N. Health Facilities, Inc.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

August 7, 2015

SHIRLEY WASHBURN, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF DONALD WASHBURN, Appellee
v.
NORTHERN HEALTH FACILITIES, INC.; EXTENDICARE HEALTH FACILITIES, INC.; EXTENDICARE HEALTH SERVICES, INC.; EXTENDICARE HEALTH NETWORK, INC.; EXTENDICARE HOLDINGS, INC.; EXTENDICARE, INC.; EXTENDICARE REIT; EXTENDICARE, L.P., Appellants

Argued April 14, 2015

Page 1009

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Schuylkill County, Civil Division, No(s): S-399-13. Before GOODMAN, J.

Joel I. Fishbein, Philadelphia, for appellants.

Stephen Trzcinski, Philadelphia, for appellee.

BEFORE: BOWES, DONOHUE AND ALLEN, JJ.

OPINION

Page 1010

OWES, J.

Northern Health Facilities, Inc., d/b/a Tremont Health & Rehabilitation, an Extendicare entity (collectively " Tremont" ), appeals from the June 9, 2014 order overruling preliminary objections in the nature of a petition to compel arbitration. After careful review, we affirm.

On March 4, 2011, Donald Washburn (" Mr. Washburn" or " Decedent" ) was transferred via ambulance from the East Orange Veterans' Administration Medical Center to Tremont. Shirley Washburn, his wife, drove behind the ambulance. Upon arrival at Tremont, nursing home personnel pulled Mrs. Washburn aside to sign the paperwork to enable her husband's admission to the facility. The staff member assisting her was not the usual intake person. When Mrs. Washburn advised her that she did not have power of attorney for her husband, the staff person insisted that all the paperwork had to be signed prior to his admission.

Among the documents executed by Mrs. Washburn was a stand-alone " Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement" (" ADR agreement" ) between Extendicare, on behalf of its affiliates and subsidiaries including Tremont, and the Resident Donald Washburn. Mr. Washburn did not sign the ADR agreement. Mrs. Washburn signed next to the " Xs" placed by Tremont staff on the lines for " Legal Representative for Healthcare Decisions" and " Legal

Page 1011

Representative for Financial Decisions." ADR Agreement, 3/4/11, at 5.[1] Mr. Washburn remained a resident at Tremont until April 28, 2011. He never regained mental competency before his death on March 1, 2012.

On March 1, 2013, Shirley Washburn filed the within survival action in her capacity as Administratrix of the Estate of Donald Washburn, and alleged that Tremont's facility was negligently understaffed and mismanaged and unable to meet the Decedent's needs. She averred that Tremont's care violated the Neglect of a Care/Dependent Person Statute, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2713, and the Older Adults Protective Services Act, 35 P.S. § 10225.101 et seq. She also maintained that, due to Tremont's failure to provide sufficient food, water, medication and overall care, Decedent became dehydrated, contracted pneumonia, urinary and respiratory infections, and sepsis, all of which contributed to his death.

Tremont filed preliminary objections to both the original and amended complaints seeking to compel arbitration of the claim pursuant to the ADR agreement signed by Mrs. Washburn in her representative capacity on behalf of her husband. The trial court ordered discovery on the enforceability of the arbitration agreement, and, following argument and the submission of briefs, the trial court overruled the preliminary objections. Tremont filed the within appeal and complied with the trial court's order to file a Pa.R.A.P. 1925(b) concise statement of errors complained of on appeal. Tremont presents five issues for our review, which we have re-reordered for ease of disposition:

1. Whether the Court committed reversible error in concluding that Mrs. Washburn did not have authority to sign the ADR ...

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