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Personacare of Reading, Inc. v. Lengel

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 27, 2017

PERSONACARE OF READING, INC., d/b/a KINDRED TRANSITIONAL CARE AND REHABILITATION - WYOMISSING, Plaintiff,
v.
KATHRYN M. LENGEL and THERESA A. QUITINSKY, and as co-Executrixes of the Estate of MARY KATHRYN QUITINSKY, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SCHMEHL, J.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Compel of Plaintiff, Personacare of Reading, Inc., d/b/a Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation-Wyomissing (“Plaintiff”), which Defendants, Kathryn M. Lengel and Theresa A. Quitinsky, and as co-Executrixes of the Estate of Mary Kathryn Quitinsky (“Defendants”) have opposed. After a review of the briefs and accompanying exhibits of all parties, and for the reasons discussed below, I will grant Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Arbitration, order the survival claims in the state court matter to proceed to arbitration, and stay the pending state court proceedings.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendants' mother, the deceased Mary Kathryn Quitinsky, was a resident of Plaintiff's skilled nursing facility located in Reading, Pennsylvania. (See Complaint.) Defendants in this matter filed a claim for nursing home negligence against Plaintiff in the Court of Common Pleas of Berks County. Plaintiff then instituted the present action, seeking to have Defendants' state court action compelled to arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement signed as part of Ms. Quitinsky's admission to Plaintiff's facility. (Docket No. 2, Exh. K.) Defendants opposed this motion, claiming that the ADR agreement cannot be enforced as written, is based upon fraud, is unconscionable and is voidable.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of review

         A motion to compel arbitration may be resolved at the pleadings stage without the benefit of any discovery if “it is apparent, based on ‘the face of [the petition], and documents relied upon in the [petition], ' that certain of a party's claims ‘are subject to an enforceable arbitration clause.' . . .” Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC, 716 F.3d 764, 776 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing Somerset Consulting, LLC v. United Capital Lenders, LLC, 832 F.Supp.2d 474, 482 (E.D. Pa. 2011)). If a “complaint and its supporting documents are unclear regarding the agreement to arbitrate, ” a motion to compel should be denied without prejudice to allow limited discovery on the issue of arbitrability. Id. If the agreement to arbitrate is facially valid, an opposing party must present “reliable evidence . . . ‘that it did not intend to be bound' by the arbitration agreement. . . ” Id. at 774 (quoting Par-Knit Mills Inc. v. Stockbridge Fabrics Co., Ltd., 636 F.2d 51, 55 (3d Cir. 1980)). If a motion to compel is denied without prejudice and discovery is permitted, a party may renew the motion after discovery, and the court will review it under a summary judgment standard. Id. at 776.

         Determining the validity of an ADR agreement requires two steps. First, a court must determine whether a valid agreement to arbitrate exists; if the ADR agreement is enforceable, courts then decide whether the issues contained in the complaint fall within the scope of the agreement. Trippe Mfg. Co. v. Niles Audio Corp., 401 F.3d 529, 532 (3d Cir. 2005).

         B. ADR Agreement

         The agreement in question was signed by Theresa Quitinsky on behalf of her mother as her mother's “Legal Representative.” (See Exh. K, p. 4.) The agreement states that it is entered into between “Kindred Nursing Centers East, LLC d/b/a 1237-Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation - Wyomissing, a nursing home in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (hereinafter referred to as the “Facility”) and M. Kathryn Quitinsky, a Resident at the Facility (hereinafter referred to as the “Resident.”) The term Facility as used in this Agreement shall refer to the nursing home, its employees, agents, officers, directors, affiliates and any parent or subsidiary of the Facility.” (See Exh. K, p. 1.) The ADR agreement contains the following language:

Voluntary Agreement to Participate in ADR. The Parties agree that any disputes covered by this Agreement (“Covered Disputes”) that may arise between the Parties shall be resolved exclusively by an Alternative Dispute Resolution process that shall include mediation and, where mediation is not successful, binding arbitration. The relief available to the Parties under this Agreement shall not exceed that which otherwise would be available to them in a court action based on the same facts and legal theories under applicable federal, state or local law.
THE PARTIES UNDERSTAND, ACKNOWLEDGE, AND AGREE THAT BY ENTERING INTO THIS AGREEMENT THEY ARE GIVING UP THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO HAVE THEIR DISPUTES DECIDED BY A COURT OF LAW OR TO APPEAL ANY DECISION OR AWARD OF DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION PROCESS EXCEPT AS PROVIDED HEREIN.

(See Exh. K, p. 1) (emphasis in original). Regarding “Covered Disputes, ” the Agreement further states:

This Agreement applies to any and all disputes arising out of or in any way relating to this Agreement or to the Resident's stay at the Facility that would constitute a legally cognizable cause of action in a court of law sitting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Covered disputes include, but are not limited to all claims in law or equity arising from one Party's failure to satisfy a financial obligation to the other Party; a violation of the right claimed to exist under federal, stae, or local law or contractual agreement between the Parties; tort; breach of contract; fraud; misrepresentation; negligence; gross ...

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