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Miller v. Cardinal Care Management, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

July 11, 2019

MARK MILLER, ET AL., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CARDINAL CARE MANAGEMENT, INC., ET AL. Defendants-Appellees.

          Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-18-898372

          Djordjevic and Marmarous, L.L.C., Peter W. Marmaros and Michael M. Djordjevic; Bashein and Bashein Co., L.P.A., and W. Craig Bashein; Paul W. Flowers Co., L.P.A., Paul W. Flowers, and Louis E. Grube, for appellees.

          Tucker Ellis, L.L.P., Kelli R. Novak, Ernest W. Auciello, and Susan Audey, for appellants.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          KATHLEEN ANN KEOUGH, JUDGE.

         {¶ 1} Defendants-appellants, Cardinal Care Management, Inc.; Cardinal Care Management; Foundations Health Solutions, Inc.; Saybrook Landing Health and Rehabilitation; Saybrook Meadows Retirement Center, Inc.; Saybrook Meadows, Ltd.; Jefferson Healthcare Center, L.L.C.; Jefferson Healthcare Center; Bonnie Foderetti, STNA; Brian McNaughton, Catherine Higgins, STNA; Christy Vincenzo, LPN; Dawn King, LPN; Eric Woodin, Erin Harper, George Dubic, Jamie Burckhartte, LPN; Jessica Rich, RN; Joyce Bovee, STNA; Krystal Ramirez, LPN; Megan Green, RN; Molly McCluskey, LPN-MDS; Nancy Huston, RN; Peter Vilasi; Rochelle Perkio, RN; Sarah E. Smith, LPN; Shelley Styzej, LPN; and Susan Madsen (collectively the "Saybrook defendants"), appeal from the trial court's judgment denying their motion to stay proceedings and compel arbitration. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I. Background

         {¶ 2} On December 22, 2016, Lori Miller ("Miller" or "Lori Miller") became a resident of Saybrook Landing nursing home ("Saybrook Landing"). Eight days later, she was dead. On May 24, 2018, Miller's children - Mark Miller, individually and as administrator of Miller's estate, Kimberly Gonzalez, and Katrina Miller (collectively "plaintiffs-appellees") - brought suit against Saybrook Landing and the Saybrook defendants, as well as various University Hospitals entities and doctors associated with those entities, alleging that Miller died as a result of the defendants' substandard care. The complaint asserted claims for negligence, survivorship, statutory violations of the Nursing Home Residents' Bill of Rights, loss of consortium, reckless and conscious disregard of Miller's rights and safety, and wrongful death.

         {¶ 3} Saybrook Landing and the Saybrook defendants answered the complaint. Among their affirmative defenses was an assertion that plaintiffs-appellees' claims were subject to an arbitration agreement, which they attached as an exhibit to their answer.

         {¶ 4} Saybrook Landing and the Saybrook defendants subsequently filed a motion to stay proceedings and compel arbitration. In their motion, Saybrook Landing and the Saybrook defendants argued that upon her admission to Saybrook Landing on December 22, 2016, Lori Miller executed all admission paperwork. They asserted that among the paperwork was a three-page arbitration agreement providing that arbitration was to be used to resolve disputes. The agreement stated:

INTRODUCTION
This agreement sets forth a resolution procedure by which the Resident and Facility intend to resolve all disputes which may arise between them concerning any disagreement arising out of the Nursing Facility Admission Agreement
The procedure is intended to be a speedy and economic alternative to court litigation which is often slow, time-consuming and expensive. By using private arbitration without the right to appeal, the parties are able to avoid crowded court dockets and lengthy appeals processes.

         {¶ 5} The arbitration agreement stated that any disagreement regarding nonpayment or overpayment of any fee "by the Resident, Resident's Representative, or the Facility may be adjudicated in a court of law, unless arbitration is mutually agreed upon by the parties." Regarding other disputes, the agreement stated:

ALL OTHER DISPUTES
Any controversy, dispute, disagreement or claim of any kind arising out of, or related to the Nursing Facility Agreement (other than the payment of charges as described above) shall be settled by binding arbitration. These disputes include, but are not limited to, all claims based upon breach of contract (other than claims arising out of nonpayment of charges), negligence, medical malpractice, tort, breach of statutory duty, resident's rights, and any departures from accepted standards of care.

         {¶ 6} The agreement further stated that Miller or her "personal representative" had the option of cancelling the agreement within 30 days of signing.

         {¶ 7} Saybrook Landing and the Saybrook defendants attached a copy of the arbitration agreement to their motion.[1] The agreement was signed by Lori Miller as "resident" and Carissa Allen as "representative of facility." The agreement did not define "facility," other than to list "Saybrook Landing" as "name of facility." In addition, the agreement did not state that it applied to any corporate entities other than "the facility," nor that it applied to "the facility's" agents or employees. The agreement also did not state that the agreement to arbitrate disputes arising from the Nursing Facility Agreement applied to Lori Miller's heirs, beneficiaries, ...


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