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STAP, Inc. v. Sutterfield

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

January 15, 2020

STAP, INC., D/B/A ST. ANDREWS PLACE; KILGORE CONSULTING GROUP, INC.; AND JOSHUA KILGORE, APPELLANTS
v.
LAGATHA SUTTERFIELD, AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JAMES SUTTERFIELD, AND ON BEHALF OF THE WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF JAMES SUTTERFIELD, APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE FAULKNER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. [NO. 23CV-18-1270]. HONORABLE CHARLES E. CLAWSON, JR., JUDGE.

         COUNSEL:

          Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard, P.L.L.C., by: Benjamin D. Jackson and Lauren S. Grinder, for appellants.

          Reddick Moss, PLLC, by: Matthew D. Swindle and Robert W. Francis, for appellee.

          MEREDITH B. SWITZER, Judge. ABRAMSON and WHITEAKER, JJ., agree.

          OPINION

Page 250

         MEREDITH B. SWITZER, Judge

          LaGatha Sutterfield, as special administrator of her husband's estate and on behalf of his wrongful-death beneficiaries, filed a lawsuit against STAP, Inc., d/b/a St. Andrews Place; Kilgore Consulting Group, Inc.; and Joshua Kilgore (" St. Andrews Place" ). She asserted claims of negligence, medical malpractice, breach of the admission agreement, and deceptive trade practices. St. Andrews Place filed a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the case. The motion was denied, and this appeal followed. St. Andrews Place contends that (1) the arbitration agreement is a valid and enforceable contract under Arkansas law and (2) the circuit court erred in relying on Pine Hills Health & Rehabilitation, LLC v. Matthews, 2014 Ark. 109, 431 S.W.3d 910, and Regional Care of Jacksonville, LLC v. Henry, 2014 Ark. 361, 444 S.W.3d 356. Our jurisdiction is pursuant to Rule 2(a) of the Arkansas Rules of Appellate Procedure— Civil. We affirm.

          I. Background

          On January 18, 2018, James Sutterfield was admitted to St. Andrews Place, a longterm care facility. His wife, LaGatha Sutterfield, signed the admission agreement on his behalf. " T[racy] Moore" signed the admission agreement on behalf of St. Andrews Place. On the same date, LaGatha also signed the arbitration agreement, albeit on the wrong line, but no one from St. Andrews Place signed it. James died on May 28, 2018. On August 24, 2018, LaGatha filed the underlying action in circuit court, asserting claims of negligence, medical malpractice, breach of the admission agreement, and deceptive trade practices.

          On October 18, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration and dismiss the action. At the hearing on the motion, only counsels' arguments were heard, and no witnesses were presented. The circuit court thereafter entered its letter opinion on January 18, 2019. The court ruled that the arbitration agreement was not enforceable and denied the motion to compel and dismiss. The order denying the motion was filed on January 22, and this appeal followed.

          The admission agreement provides in pertinent part, under the " Miscellaneous" section:

Page 251

F. Modifications. No modification of the terms and conditions of this Agreement shall be valid unless in writing and signed by ...

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