Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harrison v. Winchester Place Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

July 18, 2013

Irene Harrison, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Winchester Place Nursing & Rehabilitation Center et al., Defendants-Appellees.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 10CVA-03-4041).

Elk & Elk Co., Ltd., Ryan M. Harrell, and Phillip A. Kuri, for appellant.

Rendigs, Fry, Kiely & Dennis, LLP, Jeffrey M. Hines, Paul W. McCartney and C. Jessica Pratt, for appellee Winchester Place Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.

DECISION

CONNOR, J.

{¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Irene Harrison ("appellant" or "Ms. Harrison"), appeals from a judgment entered by the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas granting defendant-appellee, Winchester Place Nursing & Rehabilitation Center's ("appellee" or "Winchester Place"), motion to stay proceedings pursuant to R.C. 2711.02. Because we find the arbitration agreement executed between these two parties to be substantively conscionable and otherwise valid and enforceable, we affirm the trial court's decision to stay the proceedings pending arbitration.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

{¶ 2} Appellant was admitted to Winchester Place following hospital stay at Mount Carmel Hospital and the Ohio State Medical Center. During the admission process, appellant's daughter, Natasha Gates ("Ms. Gates"), filled out the Nursing Home Admission Agreement ("admission agreement") and other documentation for her mother. The admission agreement is a nine-page contract which includes numerous attachments. One of those attachments is a four-page "Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement" ("ADR agreement" or "arbitration agreement"). The ADR agreement noted that the ADR process would be conducted in accordance with the National Arbitration Forum ("NAF") mediation rules and its code of procedure. These rules of procedure were not attached to the agreement, but the agreement provided a website and contact information for the organization, in the event that the resident desired a copy of the rules of procedure. Ms. Gates signed the admission agreement, the arbitration agreement, and several other relevant documents in the following manner: "Natasha Gates/POA"

{¶ 3} Between October 28 and 29, 2008, approximately two weeks after her admission to Winchester Place, appellant was prescribed and administered a drug which contained sulfa. Appellant has a known drug allergy to sulfa. As a result of receiving the medication, appellant sustained injuries due to her development of Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Several days later, Ms. Gates learned of the incident and contacted Winchester Place to complain about the administration of the drug.

{¶ 4} On March 15, 2010, appellant filed a complaint against Winchester Place and several other defendants, including Charles Baughman, M.D., and Grove City Family Health alleging claims of negligence and medical malpractice, among others. On April 16, 2010, Winchester Place filed a motion to stay proceedings pursuant to R.C. 2711.02.[1] Winchester Place argued the proceedings should be stayed for arbitration, pursuant to an arbitration agreement executed between appellant/her legal representative and Winchester Place on October 14, 2008. On May 28, 2010, appellant filed a memorandum contra to Winchester Place's motion to stay proceedings. On June 9, 2010, Winchester Place filed a reply brief

{¶ 5} Prior to ruling on Winchester Place's amended motion to stay proceedings, the trial court issued an order on October 4, 2010, allowing limited discovery. The trial court also permitted the filing of supplemental briefs. Winchester Place was the only defendant in the case arguing for a stay of the proceedings pending arbitration and was the only defendant who was a party to the arbitration agreement at issue.

{¶ 6} On March 1, 2011, appellant and Winchester Place filed a stipulation regarding the motion to stay proceedings, in which they stipulated that procedural unconscionability existed as to the ADR agreement executed between these two parties.

{¶ 7} On March 14, 2012, the trial court issued a decision and entry granting Winchester Place's motion to stay proceedings pursuant to R.C. 2711.02. The trial court determined: (1) the fact that the chosen arbitration forum (the NAF) was no longer able to conduct the arbitration was not a ground upon which to void the arbitration agreement, (2) waiver of the right to a trial by jury via an arbitration clause is not substantively unconscionable, (3) the terms of the agreement are commercially reasonable and do not warrant a finding of substantive unconscionability, (4) the danger of inconsistent verdicts is not substantial enough to void an otherwise valid agreement, (5) appellant's arguments regarding voidness do not lead to a finding of substantive unconscionability; and (6) the fact that some parties to the lawsuit are not subject to arbitration does not prevent the court from staying this action pursuant to R.C. 2711.02.

{¶ 8} Consequently, the trial court determined the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable and, therefore, it was enforceable. The court ordered the entirety of this action to be stayed pending arbitration, including appellant's claims against the other defendants.

II. ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

{¶ 9} This timely appeal now follows, in which appellant asserts two assignments of error for our review:

[I.] The Trial Court Erred by not Finding the Arbitration Agreement to be Unconscionable, and Staying Litigation of this Matter Pending Binding Arbitration Pursuant to R.C. 2711.02.
[II.] The Trial Court Erred by not Finding the Arbitration Agreement to be Void as a Matter of Law, Because it Violates the Non-Waiver Language of R.C. 3721.12.

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

{¶ 10} We review the legal issue of whether an arbitration provision in an underlying contract is unconscionable pursuant to a de novo standard. Wascovich v. Personacare of Ohio, Inc., 190 Ohio App.3d 619, 2010-Ohio-4563, ¶ 23 (11th Dist), citing Featherstone v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., 159 Ohio App.3d 27, 2004-Ohio-5953, ¶ 12 (9th Dist.). "The determination of whether a contractual provision is unconscionable is fact-dependant and requires an analysis of the circumstances of the particular case before the court." Id., citing Featherstone, citing Eagle v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 157 Ohio App.3d 150, 2004-Ohio-829, ¶ 13 (9th Dist.). Under this standard, we possess plenary review power and afford no deference to the trial court's analysis. Wascovich at ¶ 23, citing Eagle at ¶ 11.

IV. LAW AND ANALYSIS

A. First Assignment of Error-Substantive Unconscionability

{¶ 11} In her first assignment of error, appellant contends the trial court erred by failing to find the ADR agreement to be unconscionable and by improperly staying litigation of this matter pending arbitration pursuant to R.C. 2711.02. We disagree.

{¶ 12} Ohio public policy favors enforcement of arbitration provisions. Featherstone at ¶ 5, citing Harrison v. Toyota Motor Sales, U.SA., Inc., 9th Dist. No. 20815, 2002-Ohio-1642, ¶ 9. See also Hayes v. Oakridge Home, 122 Ohio St.3d 63, 2009-Ohio-2054, ¶ 15. If the subject of the dispute arguably falls within a provision of the arbitration agreement, there is a presumption in favor of arbitration. Featherstone at ¶ 5, citing Harrison at ¶ 9. "Ohio's policy of encouraging arbitration has been declared by the legislature through the Ohio Arbitration Act, R.C. 2711.01 et seq." Henderson v. Lawyers Title Ins. Corp., 108 Ohio St.3d 265, 2006-Ohio-906, ¶ 48 (Lanzinger, J., dissenting). See also Goodwin v. Ganley, Inc., 8th Dist. No. 89732, 2007-Ohio-6327, ¶ 8 ("The Ohio Arbitration Act is codified in Chapter 2711 of the Ohio Revised Code"). This statute mirrors the Federal Arbitration Act in many ways. Henderson at ¶ 48.

{¶ 13} R.C. 2711.02 provides for enforcement of an arbitration agreement. A party to an arbitration agreement may obtain a stay of litigation in favor of arbitration pursuant to R.C. 2711.02(B). Hayes at ¶ 17. R.C. 2711.02(B) provides, in relevant part, as follows:

If any action is brought upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for arbitration, the court in which the action is pending, upon being satisfied that the issue involved in the action is referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for arbitration, shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until the arbitration of the issue has been had in accordance ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.