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Williamson v. Grano

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 16, 2019

JERRY WILLIAMSON and HORACE WINCHESTER, Plaintiff,
v.
MARC GRANO, as personal representative of the Estate of CAROL CANTRELL; and JACK CANTRELL, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel Arbitration, filed May 10, 2018 (Doc. 3). Having reviewed the parties' pleadings and the applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiffs' motion is well-taken and, therefore, is GRANTED. In light of the Court's disposition of the motion, no reply is necessary.

         BACKGROUND

         This case stems from a wrongful death lawsuit in state court, filed in the County of San Miguel, Fourth Judicial District Court, involving the death of Carol Cantrell. See Doc. 21-1 (state court complaint). Plaintiffs Williamson and Winchester are members/owners of WW Healthcare, L.L.C. which does business as Princeton Place, a skilled nursing facility located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. On May 9, 2018, Plaintiff Williamson (who is the defendant in the state court action) filed this independent and separate federal action to compel arbitration of all matters related to the care and treatment that Ms. Cantrell received at Princeton Place.[1]

         I. Factual Background

         Ms. Carol Cantrell resided at Princeton Place, a skilled nursing facility, from March 4 to March 8, 2016. On May 24, 2014, Ms. Cantrell designated Josephine Lindsay as her attorney in fact.[2] On March 5, 2016, Ms. Lindsay signed the Resident Admission Agreement (“Admission Agreement”) on Ms. Cantrell's behalf and agreed to arbitration pursuant to the Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims (“Arbitration Agreement”) included in the Admission Agreement. The Arbitration Agreement is contained within the Resident Admission Agreement that Ms. Lindsay also executed on Ms. Cantrell's behalf to obtain care for Ms. Cantrell at Princeton Place

         On March 8, 2016, Carp; Cantrell died from complications of untreated diabetes. After Ms. Cantrell's death, Defendant Marc Grano was appointed as personal representative of her estate. He, along with Jack Cantrell, Ms. Cantrell's brother, brought a wrongful death action in the Fourth Judicial District Court, San Miguel County, New Mexico, suing Plaintiff Jerry Williamson for Ms. Cantrell's allegedly wrongful death from a fatal complication of untreated diabetes.[3]

         II. The Arbitration Agreement and Admission Agreement

          A. The Arbitration Agreement

         The Arbitration Agreement contains a plain language title that is prominently displayed in bold, underlined, and all capital letters, which reads “MUTUAL AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE CLAIMS.” The Arbitration Agreement then states in part:

It is understood and agreed by Princeton Place (the “Facility) and Cantrell, Carol (“Resident or Resident's Authorized Representative) . . . that any legal dispute, controversy, demand or claim . . . that arises out of or relates to the Resident Admission Agreement or any service or health care provided by the Facility to the Resident, shall be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration . . . in accordance with the American Health Lawyers Association (“AHLA”) Alternative Dispute Resolution Services Rules of Procedure which are hereby incorporated into this agreement . . . .

         Exhibit 2 at 1. The Arbitration Agreement further states, in bold letters, that

The parties understand and agree that by entering this Arbitration Agreement they are giving up and waiving their constitutional right to have any claim decided in a court of law before a judge and a jury.

         Exhibit 2 at 2. Just above the signature line, the Arbitration Agreement contains the following acknowledgements:

The Resident understands that (1) he/she has the right to seek legal counsel concerning this agreement, (2) the execution of this Arbitration is not a precondition to the furnishing of services to the Resident by the Facility, and this Arbitration Agreement may be rescinded by written notice to the Facility from the Resident within 30 days of signature. If not rescinded within 30 days, this Arbitration Agreement shall remain in effect for all care and services subsequently rendered at the Facility, even if such care and services are rendered following the Resident's discharge and readmission to the Facility.

         Exhibit 2 at 2. Plaintiffs state that neither Ms. Cantrell nor her power of attorney rescinded their consent to the Arbitration Agreement, and Defendants do not dispute this.

         The Arbitration Agreement contains language defining “Facility” and identifying who is bound by the agreement, which in turn defines who may seek to enforce the Arbitration Agreement. It defines Facility as:

the Facility, and its parent company or companies, its management company or companies, its subsidiary and affiliated entities . . . fiduciaries, administrators, affiliates and agents, employees, and any successors and assigns of any of them.

         Exhibit 2 at 1. Second, the Arbitration Agreement binds:

the parties, their successors and assigns, including the agents, employees and servants of the Facility, . . . and all persons who claim they derived through or on behalf of Resident, including that of any . . . executor, administrator, legal representative, or heir of the Resident.

         Exhibit 2 at 1. Third, the Arbitration Agreement includes broad language regarding its scope:

This agreement to arbitrate includes, but is not limited to, any claim for . . . breach of contract, fraud or misrepresentation, negligence, gross negligence, malpractice, or any other claim based on any departure from accepted standards of medical or health care or safety whether sounding in tort or in contract.

         Exhibit 2 at 1.

         B. The ...


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