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GGNSC Louisville Hillcreek, LLC v. Estate of Bramer

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 2, 2019

GGNSC Louisville Hillcreek, LLC; GGNSC Administrative Services, LLC; GGNSC Clinical Services, LLC, Petitioners-Appellants,
v.
Estate of Robert C. Bramer, by and through Margaret A. Bramer, Administratrix; Margaret A. Bramer, individually, Respondents-Appellees.

          Argued: April 30, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville. No. 3:17-cv-00439-David J. Hale, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Edward M. O'Brien, WILSON ELSER MOSKOWITZ EDELMAN & DICKER, LLP, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellants.

          Jennifer A. Moore, GROSSMAN & MOORE, PLLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Respondents.

         ON BRIEF:

          Edward M. O'Brien, Marcia L. Pearson, WILSON ELSER MOSKOWITZ EDELMAN & DICKER, LLP, Louisville, Kentucky, for Appellants.

          Jennifer A. Moore, GROSSMAN & MOORE, PLLC, Louisville, Kentucky, for Respondents. Maame Gyamfi, AARP FOUNDATION, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae.

          Before: MERRITT, MOORE, and WHITE, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          MERRITT, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         This case is about nursing homes and the rights their residents surrender should they consent to arbitration. The question presented is whether the estate of a deceased nursing home resident must arbitrate its dispute with the nursing home. Arbitration rests on consent, and the District Court concluded there was none. We agree and AFFIRM.

         I. Factual & Procedural Background

         Robert C. Bramer was admitted to a Kentucky nursing home called Golden Living Center–Hillcreek multiple times over the course of eighteen months in 2015 and 2016. See GGNSC Louisville Hillcreek, LLC v. Estate of Bramer, No. 3:17–CV–439–DJH, 2018 WL 4620968, at *1 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 26, 2018) (District Court Opinion). During his final stay, he fell out of bed, sustained a head injury, and later died. His estate alleges that the nursing home did not adequately care for Robert and hastened his death. In June 2017, Robert's estate and his widow sued the company operating the nursing home in Kentucky state court, alleging negligence, negligence per se, violations of Kentucky's Residents' Rights Act, KRS 216.515(26), corporate negligence, medical negligence, wrongful death, and loss of consortium.[1]

         In July 2017, the nursing home defendants filed a petition to enforce an arbitration agreement against the estate in federal court. Practically, this meant that the parties flipped: the state court plaintiffs became respondents in federal court, and the state court defendants became the petitioners in federal court. The point of the petition to enforce arbitration was to ask the District Court whether the allegations in the state court complaint should go to arbitration rather than a Kentucky jury. The nursing home claims that the parties executed arbitration agreements, while the estate says those agreements are invalid. In this stage of litigation, we are determining only where the estate's claims against the nursing home will be decided. The District Court agreed with the estate that no valid agreement covering the final visit existed. 2018 WL 4620968, at *4.

         Robert Bramer was admitted to Hillcreek on three occasions: (1) January 5, 2015; (2) January 26, 2015; and (3) July 13, 2016. Each time Hillcreek admitted Bramer, it presented him with an "admissions packet." One of these documents was a contract styled "Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement." The nursing home's practice was to re-present the same admissions packet upon each new admission to the nursing home, even if the person had been admitted before. So three different copies of the same contract-the Alternative ...


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