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.

Aurora Healthcare, Inc. v. Ramsey

Supreme Court of Alabama

July 27, 2018

Aurora Healthcare, Inc., et al.
v.
Sharon Ramsey, as administratrix of the Estate of Mary Pettway, deceased Sharon Ramsey, as administratrix of the Estate of Mary Pettway, deceased
v.
Aurora Healthcare, Inc., et al.

          Appeals from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-06-2168)

          MENDHEIM, JUSTICE.

         Aurora Healthcare, Inc., and Aurora Cares, LLC, d/b/a Tara Cares (hereinafter referred to collectively as "Aurora"), and Birmingham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center East, LLC ("Birmingham East") (Aurora and Birmingham East are hereinafter referred to collectively as "the defendants"), appeal from the Jefferson Circuit Court's denial of their motion to compel arbitration of an action filed against them by Sharon Ramsey, as administratrix of the estate of her mother, Mary Pettway, who is deceased. Ramsey cross-appeals the Jefferson Circuit Court's decision denying her motion for a partial summary judgment concerning the validity of the subject arbitration agreement. We dismiss both the appeal and the cross-appeal.

         I. Facts

         This is the second time the circuit court's ruling on the defendants' motion to compel arbitration has come before this Court. See Aurora Healthcare, Inc. v. Ramsey, 83 So.3d 495, 497 (Ala. 2011) ("Aurora Healthcare I"). In Aurora Healthcare I, we reversed the circuit court's order denying the defendants' motion to compel arbitration. Understanding the arguments of the parties and the disposition of these appeals requires more factual context than was provided in Aurora Healthcare I.

         On or about November 7, 2003, Mary Pettway, then 75 years old, was discharged from the hospital at the University of Alabama at Birmingham ("UAB Hospital"). On the same day, Pettway was admitted to a nursing home owned and operated by the defendants. During Pettway's admission to the nursing home, Ramsey met with Faye Linard, an administrative assistant, who presented Ramsey with an admissions agreement that included several documents.[1] Ramsey alleges that Linard explained the documents to her, including a "Resident and Facility Arbitration Agreement." Ramsey refused to sign the arbitration agreement; signing it was not a prerequisite to Pettway's admission to the nursing home.

         Pettway developed an infection, and, as a result, she was returned to UAB Hospital on November 16, 2003. Pettway was readmitted to the nursing home on November 26, 2003. Ramsey stated in an affidavit that late in the evening on November 26, 2003, she received a telephone call from the admissions office at the nursing home and was asked to return to the nursing home because "there were some documents that I had not signed the first time my mother was admitted and I needed to come in to sign them." Ramsey met with Birmingham East employee Brandi Harrison, who, Ramsey testified, told her that the documents were ones that "had not been completed the first time" her mother was admitted to the nursing home. Ramsey testified that Harrison did not explain each document to Ramsey. Ramsey further alleges that Harrison did not give her the opportunity to review each document, but "simply held up the corners of each document and showed me where to sign." Ramsey stated that she was not told that one of those documents was an arbitration agreement.

         An arbitration agreement containing a signature with the name "Sharon Ramsey" dated November 26, 2003, appears in the record. Ramsey contends that the signature is not authentic, and she asserts that, even if it is genuine, the signature was obtained by misrepresentation. In pertinent part, the arbitration agreement provides:

"This ARBITRATION AGREEMENT ('Agreement') is executed by Birmingham East (the 'Facility') and Mary Pettway ('Resident'[] or 'Resident's Designated Representative', hereafter collectively referred to as 'Resident') in conjunction with the agreement for admission and for the provision of nursing facility services (the 'Admission Agreement') by the Facility to the Resident. The parties to this Agreement acknowledge and agree that upon execution, this Agreement becomes part of the Admission Agreement and that the Admission Agreement evidences a transaction in interstate commerce governed by the Federal Arbitration Act. It is understood and agreed by the Facility and the Resident that any and all claims, disputes, and controversies (hereafter collectively referred to as a 'claim' or collectively as 'claims') arising out of, or in connection with, or relating in any way to the Admission Agreement or any service or health care provided by the Facility to the Resident shall be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration ....
"This Agreement to arbitrate includes, without limitation, or refund for services rendered to the Resident by the Facility, violations of any right granted to the Resident by law or by the Admission Agreement, breach of contract, fraud or misrepresentation, negligence, gross negligence, malpractice, or claims based on any departure from the accepted medical or health care or safety standards, as well as any and all claims for equitable relief or claims based on contract, tort, statute, warranty, or any alleged breach, default, negligence, fraud misrepresentation, suppression of fact, or inducement. ...
"It is the intention of the parties to this Agreement that it shall inure to the benefit of and bind the parties, their successors, and assigns, including without limitation the agents, employees and servants of the Facility, and all persons whose claim is derived through or on behalf of the Resident, including any parent, spouse, sibling, child, guardian, executor, legal representative, administrator or heir of the Resident. The parties further intend that this Agreement is to survive the lives or existence of the parties hereto.
"... If not rescinded within thirty days, this Agreement shall remain in effect for all subsequent stays at the Facility, even if the Resident is discharged from and readmitted to the Facility."

         On November 28, 2003, Pettway was again transferred to UAB Hospital due to a worsening infection. Pettway was readmitted to the nursing home again on December 3, 2003. Ramsey was not asked to sign any additional documents for this third admission. Pettway died at the nursing home on December 10, 2003.

         After her appointment as administratrix of Pettway's estate, Ramsey filed a complaint in the Jefferson Circuit Court on November 3, 2005, asserting against the defendants "a variety of statutory and common-law claims allegedly arising from Pettway's death, including a wrongful-death claim." 83 So.3d at 497. On November 3, 2006, the defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion on June 23, 2010, finding that the defendants had waived their right to invoke arbitration based on their delay in asserting it.

         In the first appeal, this Court reversed the circuit court's order, concluding that Ramsey was not prejudiced by the defendants' delay in filing their motion to compel arbitration. In remanding the case, the Court stated:

"We are unable to determine, however, whether this case is due to be arbitrated. The parties dispute whether Ramsey's signature on the arbitration agreement is authentic or forged, whether the agreement, signed subsequent to Pettway's initial admission to the nursing home, operates retroactively, and whether [Aurora], [a] nonsignator[y] to the arbitration agreement, can enforce the agreement. The circuit court did not provide findings of fact or conclusions of law as to any of those issues but denied the defendants' motion to compel solely on the basis of waiver.
"Accordingly, we reverse the circuit court's June 23, 2010, order denying the defendants' motion to compel arbitration. We remand the cause for that court to consider the motion to compel arbitration in light of the issues associated with the validity and scope of the arbitration agreement proffered by the defendants."

83 So.3d at 502-03.

         Following remand, on January 27, 2012, the defendants filed in the circuit court a "Supplemental Brief and Renewed Motion to Compel Arbitration." On February 28, 2017, Ramsey filed a "Partial Motion for Summary Judgment" in which she sought a determination that the arbitration agreement was invalid based on fraud or that it was unenforceable by Aurora because Aurora was not a signatory to the arbitration agreement.

         On March 15, 2017, the circuit court entered an order ruling upon the defendants' motion to compel arbitration and Ramsey's motion for a partial summary judgment. Specifically, the order examined three issues:

"1. Is the purported November 26, 2003, arbitration agreement valid?
"2. If the purported November 26, 2003, arbitration agreement is valid, can Aurora, a non-signatory, enforce it?
"3. If the purported November 26, 2003, arbitration agreement is valid and Aurora can enforce it, does it apply retroactively to November 7, 2003?"

         As to the first issue, the circuit court examined the testimony in the record from Ramsey and Harrison. The circuit court concluded that "Ramsey has presented substantial evidence that her signature on the November 26, 2003, arbitration agreement was procured by fraud in factum." The circuit court also noted, however, that deposition testimony from Ramsey, in which she stated that she did not know whether the signature on the November 26, 2003, arbitration agreement was her signature,

"when considered in conjunction with Harrison's [deposition testimony, ] ... prevents the Court from granting [Ramsey's motion for a partial summary judgment]. As such, the Court finds there are disputed issues of material fact concerning (1) whether Ramsey validly assented to the arbitration agreement, and (2) whether her signature on the arbitration agreement (if valid) was procured by fraud in the factum."

         The circuit court elected not to confine its order to its conclusion that "a jury must decide if the arbitration agreement is valid." Instead, the circuit court explained: "[I]n the event a jury might find the arbitration agreement is valid, in the interest of judicial economy and expeditiously moving this lawsuit along, the Court chooses to go ahead and address the contingent ...


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.