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Pine Hills Health & Rehabilitation LLC v. Talley

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

February 14, 2018

PINE HILLS HEALTH & REHABILITATION LLC, ARKANSAS SNF OPERATIONS AQUISITION LLC, SLC PROFESSIONAL LLC, ADDIT LLC, PATRICIA BULLARD, ROBIN LOONEY APPELLANTS
v.
JESSE ALAN TALLEY APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE OUACHITA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 52CV-16-90] HONORABLE ROBIN J. CARROLL, JUDGE

          Wright, Lindsey & Jennings, LLP, by: Jerry J. Sallings, Kathryn A. Pryor, and Michael A. Thompson, for appellants.

          Trammell Piazza Law Firm, PLLC, by: Melody H. Piazza; and Appellate Solutions, PLLC, by: Deborah Truby Riordan, for appellee.

          WAYMONDM.BROWN, Judge

         Appellants appeal from the circuit court's denial of their motion to compel arbitration. On appeal, they argue that (1) under Arkansas law, the claims asserted on behalf of Glenda Sue Talley are governed by an arbitration agreement because Glenda Sue was the intended third-party beneficiary of the arbitration agreement; and (2) the claims asserted in this case fall within the broad scope of the arbitration agreement. We affirm.

         On June 28, 2010, Glenda Sue signed a power of attorney stating the following:

I constitute and appoint as my priority power of attorney, Jessie Talley, my husband; however, if he cannot serve or cannot continue to serve, then I hereby nominate and appoint second priority, my son, Jesse Alan Talley; however, if he cannot serve or cannot continue to serve, then I hereby nominate and appoint third priority, my daughter, Peggy Sue Talley-McMillon to be my attorney-in-fact for me in my name and in my place, to exercise this power of attorney at any time.

         Glenda Sue was admitted as a resident of Pine Hills Health & Rehabilitation LLC (Pine Hills) on March 10, 2012. At the time of her admission, Glenda Sue suffered from Alzheimer's and dementia, among other things, resulting in her mental incapacity. Admission documents included an arbitration agreement. The arbitration agreement was optional as a paragraph contained therein, being the second paragraph above the signature block, states that the resident understands "that execution of the Agreement is not a precondition to admission or to the furnishing of services to the Resident by the Facility[.]" Tonja Belt, daughter of Glenda Sue, signed the agreement as the "Responsible Party." On the following page, the agreement requested that "[i]f the resident is unable to consent or sign this provision because of physical disability or mental incompetence or is a minor and a Responsible Party is signing this provision[, ]" the responsible party should identify his or her relationship to the resident. Belt wrote "Daughter" in the space provided. She did not check where the agreement stated, "A copy of my guardianship papers, durable power of attorney or other documentation, has been provided to the Facility and is attached." Glenda Sue did not sign the agreement.

         Jesse Alan filed a complaint against the facility itself and certain administrators that worked at the facility, on Glenda Sue's behalf[1] as an incapacitated person, on April 15, 2016, asserting claims of ordinary negligence for failures in ordinary duties of care and medical-malpractice negligence for failures in professional standards of care of a long-term care facility. The appellants filed their answer on May 19, 2016, generally denying all material allegations in the complaint and asserting that the complaint should be dismissed for a number of reasons including failure to state facts upon which relief can be granted.

         On November 15, 2016, appellants filed a motion to compel arbitration and separately filed brief in support asserting that because Glenda Sue was a third-party beneficiary of a valid, enforceable arbitration agreement between appellants and Tonja Belt, Jesse Alan should be ordered to submit to arbitration in accordance with that agreement. Jesse Alan responded on November 30, 2016, denying that the arbitration agreement was valid or binding against Glenda Sue as Belt was not "the Resident, or the person duly authorized by the Resident" to execute the agreement and accept its terms, a requirement of the arbitration agreement. Appellants replied to Jesse Alan's response on December 13, 2016.

         A hearing on the matter was scheduled for February 7, 2017; however, it was canceled on February 6, 2017, and the circuit court entered an order on the parties' motions and briefs alone, without a hearing, on February 17, 2017. Therein, it stated the following:

1. It is undisputed that Tonja Belt lacked legal authority to act in a
representative capacity to bind Glenda Talley to the arbitration agreement. Accordingly, no valid agreement to arbitrate exists ...

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