Gulledge v. Trinity Mission Health & Rehab of Holly Springs, LLC, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78247 (N.D. Miss. 2007)

When Luanna Campbell was admitted to a nursing home, her daughter signed a number of agreements, including an arbitration agreement. Plaintiff argued there was no valid agreement to arbitrate because: (1) Lizzie Bowens lacked the authority to bind Luanna Campbell to arbitration; (2) the circumstances in which Campbell signed the agreement are dubious; and, (3) the arbitration agreement is procedurally unconscionable. From the resident’s medical records, the court found the resident was unable to make her own medical decisions. Thus, section 41-41-211 of the Mississippi Code (governing health care surrogates) applied and the surrogate had authority to bind the resident. The court likewise rejected an argument that the contract was procedurally unconscionable because it was a contract of adhesion. The contract of adhesion would only become procedurally unconscionable where “the stronger party’s terms are unnegotiable and ‘the weaker party is prevented by market factors, timing or other pressures from being able to contract with another party on more favorable terms or to refrain from contracting at all.'” The court rejected Plaintiff’s argument that the arbitration agreement violated 42 USC 1396r because it is an additional consideration; the court found section 1396r applies only to financial consideration. The court rejected Plaintiff’s public policy arguments finding that Plaintiff’s rights under federal and State law are not violated by designating arbitration as the forum for decision; further, adhesion contracts are enforceable unless they are also unconscionable and this was not found to be unconscionable. The court rejected Plaintiff’s request for limited discovery and a jury trial to determine whether a binding arbitration agreement exists; “the Plaintiff asserts no facts she might be able to, or even hope to, discover which would support her claim. None of the bases, under which her response to the Defendants’ motion was brought, would appear to be bolstered by allowing for a period of discovery. As is, the Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all issues raised. Thus a jury trial would be unwarranted.”

Arbitration compelled.

Decided October 22, 2007

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