BRET CARDINAL, AS EXECUTOR FOR THE ESTATE OF CARMEN CARDINAL, DECEASED Appellee
KINDRED HEALTHCARE, INC., AND PERSONACARE OF READING, INC., D/B/A KINDRED TRANSITIONAL CARE AND REHABILITATION-WYOMISSING, AND KINDRED NURSING CENTERS EAST, LLC, AND KINDRED HEALTHCARE OPERATING, INC., AND MONIQUE COLE, NHA Appellants
from the Order Entered August 18, 2014 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Berks County Civil Division at No(s): 13-23203
BEFORE: PANELLA, J., LAZARUS, J., and PLATT, J.
Healthcare, Inc., Personacare of Reading, Inc., d/b/a Kindred
Transitional Care and Rehabilitation-Wyomissing, Kindred
Nursing Centers East, LLC, Kindred Healthcare Operating,
Inc., and Monique Cole, NHA (collectively,
"Kindred"), appeal from the order entered in the
Court of Common Pleas of Berks County, overruling
Kindred's preliminary objections to the complaint filed
by Bret Cardinal, Executor of the Will of Carmen Cardinal,
Deceased ("Cardinal"). Upon careful review, we
action involves claims of negligence on the part of Kindred
in relation to care rendered to Carmen Cardinal
("Decedent") during his stay as a patient at a
Kindred facility. Cardinal filed a complaint on October 7,
2013, alleging claims of negligence, corporate negligence,
custodial neglect and wrongful death. Kindred filed
preliminary objections on November 5, 2013, seeking,
inter alia, to enforce an arbitration agreement
signed by Decedent upon admission to Kindred. Cardinal filed
a response, in which he asserted that the agreement was
"unenforceable, void, unconscionable, and/or a contract
of adhesion." Plaintiff's Answer to Preliminary
Objections, 11/25/13, at ¶ 4. Cardinal also claimed that
the agreement "was signed under duress or by someone
without proper legal authority." Id. The
parties engaged in limited discovery on the issue of
arbitration and filed supplemental briefs. Following oral
argument, the trial court issued an order on August 18, 2013,
overruling Kindred's preliminary objections and directing
Kindred to file a response to Cardinal's complaint.
timely appeal follows,  in which Kindred raises the following
issues for our review:
1. Whether the [t]rial [c]ourt erred in overruling
Kindred's preliminary objections seeking to enforce an
[a]lternative [d]ispute [r]esolution [a]greement signed by
[p]laintiff's [d]ecedent, Carmen Cardinal, who had the
capacity to execute the ADR [a]greement on his own behalf?
2. Whether the [t]rial [c]ourt erred by failing to conclude
that by signing various other medical-legal documents during
his stay at Kindred, [p]laintiff is now estopped from
disavowing the [a]greement now?
3. Whether the [t]rial [c]ourt erred in failing to apply the
policies favoring arbitration contained in the Federal
Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16
("FAA"), the Pennsylvania Uniform Arbitration Act
("PUAA"), and extensive case law interpreting same?
4. Whether the [t]rial [c]ourt erred in failing to conclude
that the [a]greement itself sets forth in direct and
understandable terms the material terms of [a]lternative
5. Whether the [t]rial [c]ourt erred in its application of
Pisano v. Extendicare Homes, Inc., 77 A.3d 651 (Pa.
Super. 2013), appeal denied, 86 A.3d 233 (Pa. 2014),
cert. denied, Extendicare Homes, Inc. v.
Pisano, __U.S.__, 2014 WL 2207212 (U.S. June 30, 2014),
in that there are no beneficiaries designated by the statute
who can recover under the Wrongful Death Act, 42 Pa.C.S.
§ 8301(b), in this case?
Brief of Appellants, at 4-5.
begin by noting that our review of a claim that the trial
court improperly denied preliminary objections in the nature
of a petition to compel arbitration is limited to determining
whether the trial court's findings are supported by
substantial evidence and whether the trial court abused its
discretion in denying the petition. Gaffer, 936 A.2d
at 1112. As contract interpretation is a question of law, our
review of the trial court's decision is de novo
and our scope is plenary. Id., citing Bucks
Orthopaedic Surgery Associates, P.C. v. Ruth, 925 A.2d
868, 871 (Pa. Super. 2007).
first two issues challenge the trial court's finding that
Decedent lacked capacity to execute the arbitration
agreement. Kindred argues that there is insufficient factual
support in the record to support the court's conclusion
and further asserts that Cardinal should be estopped from
denying Decedent's capacity because Cardinal "seeks
to impose a duty based on [the admissions agreement], yet
claims that [Decedent] was incapable of understanding
[other] documents [executed simultaneously] that contained
legal concepts." Brief of Appellants, at 24.
agreements are matters of contract. Under Pennsylvania law,
it is presumed that an adult is competent to enter into an
agreement, and a signed document gives rise to the
presumption that it accurately expresses the state of mind of
the signing party. Estate of McGovern v. Com. State
Employees' Ret. Bd., 517 A.2d 523, 526 (Pa. 1986).
To rebut this presumption, the challenger must present
evidence of mental incompetency which is clear, precise and
convincing. Id. This burden of proof requires that
the witnesses must be found to be credible, that the facts to
which they testify are distinctly remembered and the details
thereof narrated exactly and in due order, and that their
testimony is so clear, direct, weighty and convincing as to
enable the [finder of fact] to come to a clear ...