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Hickory Heights Health And Rehab, LLC v. Adams

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

November 28, 2018

HICKORY HEIGHTS HEALTH AND REHAB, LLC; CENTRAL ARKANSAS NURSING CENTERS, INC.; NURSING CONSULTANTS, INC.; AND MICHAEL MORTON APPELLANTS
v.
LEMARION ADAMS AS GUARDIAN OF IDA ADAMS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO. 60CV-17-6357] HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE

          Hardin, Jesson & Terry, PLC, by: Jeffrey W. Hatfield, Kynda Almefty, Carol Ricketts, and Kirkman T. Dougherty, for appellants.

          Reddick Moss, PLLC, by: Robert W. Francis, for appellee.

          RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON, Judge

         Hickory Heights Health and Rehab, LLC; Central Arkansas Nursing Centers, Inc.; Nursing Consultants, Inc.; and Michael Morton jointly appeal the Pulaski County Circuit Court order denying their motion to compel arbitration. On appeal, they argue that the circuit court erred in denying their motion.[1] We affirm.

         Hickory Heights is a nursing-home facility where Ida Adams is currently a resident. On November 6, 2017, Ida's son and guardian, Lemarion Adams, filed suit on her behalf against Hickory Heights, alleging claims for negligence, medical malpractice, breach of contract, and a violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

         In response, on December 29, 2017, Hickory Heights filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay the proceedings. It attached an arbitration agreement signed by Lemarion at Ida's admission to Hickory Heights. The arbitration agreement provides in part as follows:

Signing this Arbitration Agreement, as an addendum to and part of the Admission Agreement is a condition of admission. Once signed, this Arbitration Agreement governs the resolution of claims.
It is understood and agreed by Facility and Resident and/or responsible party that any and all claims, disputes, and controversies arising out of, or in connection with, or relating in any way to the Admission Agreement or any service or health care provided by the Facility to the Resident that would constitute a cause of action in a court of law that the Facility may have now or in the future against you or any of your representatives, or that you or any of your representatives may have now or in the future against the Facility, as defined above, and involving an amount of or greater than thirty-thousand dollars and no cents ($30, 000) shall be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration and not by a lawsuit or resort to court process.
By signing this agreement, the Parties acknowledge their understanding and agreement that all disputes will be resolved by binding arbitration:
THE PARTIES FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY ARE GIVING UP AND WAIVING THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO HAVE THEIR DISPUTES DECIDED IN A COURT OF LAW BEFORE A JUDGE AND A JURY, AND ARE INSTEAD ACCEPTING THE USE OF ARBITRATION.

         On January 19, 2018, Lemarion filed a response and argued that the arbitration agreement was invalid for two reasons: (1) the agreement lacked mutuality of obligation among the parties because it allowed Hickory Heights to sue in court for the types of claims it would likely have against residents, but it required injured residents to arbitrate their likely claims; and (2) the agreement was unconscionable and therefore unenforceable as a matter of law.

         On January 26, 2018, the circuit court entered an order without written opinion denying Hickory Heights' motion to compel. Hickory Heights timely appealed the order to this court. On appeal, Hickory Heights argues that the circuit court erred in denying its motion to compel arbitration because the agreement mutually obligated the parties and was not unconscionable.

         When a circuit court denies a motion to compel arbitration without expressly stating the basis for its ruling, that ruling encompasses the issues presented to the circuit court by the briefs and arguments of the parties. Asset Acceptance, LLC v. Newby, 2014 Ark. 280, 437 S.W.3d 119. On appeal, we review a circuit court's order denying a motion to ...


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