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Jones v. Allenbrooke Nursing And Rehabilitation Center LLC

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 16, 2019


          Session November 13, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-003415-17 Robert Samual Weiss, Judge

         This appeal involves an arbitration agreement executed in connection with a nursing home admission. At the time of admission, Appellee, daughter of the resident, signed the admission contract and separate voluntary arbitration agreement on behalf of her mother. Appellee later sued the nursing home, on behalf of her mother, for injuries sustained in a fall, and the nursing home sought to enforce the arbitration agreement signed by Appellee. The trial court denied Appellant's motion to compel arbitration, finding that Appellee lacked authority, under the power of attorney, to bind her mother to the agreement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. P. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded

          William Davis Frye, Brent E. Siler, Kathryn K. Van Namen, S. Keenan Carter, Ormonde B. Landry, and Craig C. Conley, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC.

          Deena K. Arnold, Carey L. Acerra, and Cameron C. Jehl, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Dora Nesbitt Jones.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Robert E. Lee Davies, Sr. J., joined.



         I. Background

         Dora Nesbitt Jones ("Appellee") is the daughter of Mary Nesbitt. On February 20, 2007, Ms. Nesbitt executed a general power of attorney ("POA") in favor of Ms. Jones. In relevant part, the POA granted Ms. Jones "broad powers to handle [Ms. Nesbitt's] property," and specified that those powers extended to: (1) real estate transactions; (2) tangible personal property transactions; (3) bond, share and commodity transactions; (4) banking transactions; (5) business operating transactions; (6) insurance transactions; (7) gifts to charities; (8) claims and litigation; (9) personal relationships and affairs; (10) benefits; (11) records, reports and statements, (12) access to safe deposit boxes; and (13) "[a]ll other matters." The power of attorney specifically excluded power over medical or healthcare decisions, to-wit: "This document does not authorize anyone to make medical or other health care decisions for you."

         The parties agree that by June of 2013, Ms. Nesbitt was suffering from dementia and was incompetent. On June 26, 2013, following hospitalization for a hip fracture, Ms. Nesbitt was admitted to Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC ("Allenbrooke" or "Appellant"). As part of Ms. Nesbitt's admission to Allenbrooke, Appellee signed an admission contract and a separate "Resident and Facility Arbitration Agreement" (the "Agreement"). In relevant part, the Agreement, which is at issue in this appeal, provides:

Agreement to Submit Disputes to Binding Arbitration. Any and all disputes between the Resident and the Facility shall be submitted to binding arbitration where the amount in controversy exceeds $25, 000. This includes any disputes arising out of or in any way relating to this Agreement (its enforceability), the Admission Agreement, or any of the Resident's stays at the Facility, whether existing or arising in the future, whether for statutory, compensatory or punitive damages, and irrespective of the legal theories upon which the claim is asserted. In the event that a trial court does not enforce this Agreement, the parties agree to stay all proceedings in the lower court until the merits of any appeal are determined by the appellate court. The Arbitrator shall apply the law of the state where the Facility is located except that the parties expressly stipulate that the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16 shall exclusively govern the enforcement of this Agreement. If any provision of this Agreement is held to be unenforceable by reason of law, the provision will be modified to reflect the parties' intention to arbitrate their claims, and all remaining provisions shall remain in full force and effect. If a court determines that the signators to this Agreement are not bound to arbitrate their claims, the parties agree that any dispute shall be resolved solely by a judge in a bench trial.

         On or about September 2016, while a resident at Allenbrooke, Ms. Nesbitt suffered a fall, which resulted in a fractured tibia and fibula. Ms. Nesbitt was hospitalized, and she did not return to Allenbrooke thereafter.

         On August 16, 2017, Appellee, as Ms. Nesbitt's next friend, filed suit against Allenbrooke for ordinary negligence and violations of the Tennessee Healthcare Liability Act, Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 29-26-101, et seq., for injuries allegedly sustained by Ms. Nesbitt in the September 2016 fall. On November 10, 2017, Allenbrooke filed a motion to compel arbitration and to stay proceedings, seeking to enforce the June 26, 2013 Agreement. On January 29, 2019, the trial court conducted a hearing on Appellant's motion to compel arbitration. By order of February 8, 2019, the trial court denied Allenbrooke's motion, finding that Ms. Jones did not have authority, under the POA, to bind Ms. Nesbitt to the Agreement. Allenbrooke appeals.

         II. ...

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