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Giancola v. Azem

Supreme Court of Ohio

May 3, 2018

Giancola, Admr., Appellee,
v.
Azem; Walton Manor Health Care Center et al., Appellants.

          Submitted January 23, 2018

          Appeal from the Eighth District Court of Appeals, No. 102920, 2016-Ohio-5831.

          DiCello, Levitt & Casey, Mark A. DiCello, Robert DiCello, and Justin J. Hawal; and Marks, Balette, Giessel & Young, P.L.L.C, and Jacques G. Balette, for appellee Nathan Giancola.

          Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Leslie M. Jenny, Jason P. Ferrante, and Teresa Ficken Sachs, for appellants, Cleveland Healthcare Group, Inc., a.k.a. Walton Manor Health Care Center, Saber Healthcare Group, L.L.C., and Saber Healthcare Holdings, L.L.C.

          Kennedy, J. [1]

         {¶ 1} In this discretionary appeal from a judgment of the Eighth District Court of Appeals, we consider the limitations of the law-of-the-case doctrine. The law-of-the-case doctrine provides that legal questions resolved by a reviewing court in a prior appeal remain the law of that case for any subsequent proceedings at both the trial and appellate levels. Nolan v. Nolan, 11 Ohio St.3d 1, 3, 462 N.E.2d 410 (1984). The decision of the appellate court in the first appeal in this case was limited to whether Nicholas Giancola's mother had apparent authority to sign an arbitration agreement on behalf of her son. Therefore, the law of the case from the first appeal was not relevant in the second appeal, because on remand from the first appeal, the trial court had relied on new evidence to decide that Giancola had signed the arbitration agreement. We reverse the Eighth District's judgment, which was based on the law-of-the-case doctrine, and we remand the matter to that court for review of the assignments of error that were not considered.

         I. Case Background

         A. First Proceeding in the Trial Court

         {¶ 2} Giancola was admitted to Walton Manor Health Care Center on October 24, 2011. At the time of his admission, Giancola was suffering from multiple serious medical conditions. An admission agreement and an arbitration agreement were executed on October 28, 2011. Giancola remained at the care center until December 15. He later passed away, on December 31, 2011. After his death, Paulette Kolosai, the first administrator of Giancola's estate, sued appellants, Cleveland Healthcare Group, Inc., Saber Healthcare Group, L.L.C., and Saber Healthcare Holdings, L.L.C. (collectively, "Walton Manor"), alleging both a survival action and a wrongful-death action. Kolosai claimed that Giancola's death was caused by injuries that he sustained while he was at Walton Manor.

         {¶ 3} Walton Manor filed a motion to stay the civil proceedings and to compel arbitration based on the terms of the arbitration agreement, arguing that Giancola had entered into a binding arbitration agreement with Walton Manor.

         {¶ 4} In opposition to the motion, Kolosai argued that the estate was not bound by the arbitration agreement because Giancola had not signed it and that the wrongful-death claim was not subject to arbitration. In support of her argument, Kolosai offered the deposition testimony of a Walton Manor employee who testified that Giancola's mother had signed the agreement. The trial court found that Giancola's mother had signed the arbitration agreement and that she had had apparent authority to bind her son to its terms. The trial court then granted Walton Manor's motion and ordered arbitration of the survival action. Kolosai appealed.

         B. First Appeal: Kolosai I

         {¶ 5} In the first appeal, Kolosai argued that the trial court had erred in finding that Giancola's mother had apparent authority to bind Giancola to arbitration.

         {¶ 6} Walton Manor countered that Giancola, not his mother, had signed the arbitration agreement. Walton Manor attached documents to its brief that it argued proved that Giancola had signed the agreement. Kolosai v. Azem, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 100890, 2014-Ohio-4474, ¶ 3 ("Kolosai I"). After acknowledging that Walton Manor could not supplement the record on appeal, the appellate court nevertheless noted that Walton Manor's argument-that Giancola had signed the agreement-was a concession that the trial court's opinion was erroneous. Id. at ΒΆ 8. ...


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