Session September 18, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-004192-17
Gina C. Higgins, Judge
an appeal from the trial court's denial of a motion to
compel arbitration. The subject arbitration agreement was
executed in connection with a patient's admission to a
nursing home facility and signed by the patient's son.
The trial court found that the son lacked authority to bind
his mother to the agreement. For the following reasons, we
reverse and remand for further proceedings.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Reversed and Remanded
C. Conley, Ormonde B. Landry, S. Keenan Carter, Brent E.
Siler, and Kathryn Kinnison Van Namen, Memphis, Tennessee,
and William Davis Frye, Ridgeland, Mississippi, for the
appellant, Quince Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC.
P. Chiozza, Jr., and Christopher W. Lewis, Memphis,
Tennessee, for the appellee, Donna Felecia Watson.
Baskette, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Mukesh A.
Dennis McGee, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Kenny W. Armstrong,
DENNIS MCGEE, JUDGE
Facts & Procedural History
Donna Felecia Watson, instituted this wrongful death and
health care liability suit on behalf of her deceased mother,
Marzella Damper, and the heirs at law of of Marzella Damper.
Plaintiff named as defendants Quince Nursing and
Rehabilitation Center, LLC ("Quince"), and Dr.
Mukesh A. Jain. The alleged negligence occurred while Ms.
Damper was a patient at Quince.
filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay the
proceedings. Quince asserted that Ms. Damper's son,
Marvin Damper, had executed an arbitration agreement when
signing admission paperwork on her behalf. Thus, it asked the
court to enforce the arbitration agreement and require the
parties to participate in binding arbitration. Quince argued
that the arbitration agreement was "valid and
enforceable" and insisted that Marvin Damper was
authorized to sign the agreement on his mother's behalf.
It asked the court to consider matters outside the pleadings
and submitted the arbitration agreement and a durable power
of attorney for health care executed by Ms. Damper. Quince
argued that the language of the arbitration agreement itself
was sufficient to grant Marvin Damper authority to bind his
mother. Alternatively, it submitted the durable power of
attorney for health care, which was executed by Ms. Damper
years earlier and named Marvin Damper and another daughter as
Ms. Damper's joint attorneys in fact for health care.
filed a response in opposition to the motion to compel
arbitration, arguing that the agreement was unenforceable
because Marvin Damper did not have authority to bind his
mother to the agreement. Plaintiff argued that the durable
power of attorney for health care was only to become
effective upon the incapacity of Ms. Damper, and in any
event, it would only apply to "health care"
decisions and not a voluntary arbitration agreement. She also
asserted that the language in the arbitration agreement
itself was insufficient to grant authority to Marvin Damper.
filed a reply along with deposition testimony of Marvin
Damper in a further effort to establish that he had actual or
apparent authority to bind his mother to the arbitration
agreement. During his deposition, Marvin Damper testified
that Ms. Damper knew that he was signing the admission
paperwork on her behalf and that she gave him
"permission to sign everything on her behalf."
Based on the entire record, Quince argued that the trial
court should grant its motion to compel arbitration.
hearing, the trial court denied Quince's motion to
compel, rejecting each of its arguments regarding the
authority of Marvin Damper. First, the trial court found that
no authority was established pursuant to the language used in
the arbitration agreement itself. Next, it found that the
durable power of attorney was not triggered because Ms.
Damper was not incompetent, and also, the arbitration
agreement was a "non-healthcare issue." And
finally, the trial court rejected the claim of actual or
apparent authority based on the deposition testimony. Finding
no evidence that Marvin Damper "handled Ms. Damper's
healthcare business on a regular or routine basis and had
permission to do so," the trial court concluded that
Marvin Damper did not have authority to sign the arbitration
agreement on her behalf. It found that Mr. Damper could bind
himself to an arbitration agreement, but not his mother. In
sum, the trial court concluded that Marvin Damper did not
have authority to sign the arbitration agreement on behalf of
his mother, and it denied the motion to compel arbitration.
Quince timely filed a notice of appeal.