The Superior Court of Pennsylvania (“Pennsylvania Appellate Court”) held in its Memorandum Opinion dated April 16, 2020 with regard to the plaintiff in a nursing home injury case attempting to circumvent arbitration of the claim, “our review of the record indicates that this is not a case of non-disclosure on the part of Appellants, but rather a case where Davis did not put forth any effort to read or understand the Arbitration Agreement. Davis’s failure to notice the Arbitration Agreement’s clear statements that it did not need to be signed for Ramey to receive care, was due to his choice to sign it without reading it. His willful failure to read the Arbitration Agreement does not render it procedurally unconscionable.”
“It is well established that, in the absence of fraud, the failure to read a contract before signing it is “an unavailing excuse or defense and cannot justify an avoidance, modification or nullification of the contract”; it is considered “supine negligence.””
In the case the Pennsylvania Appellate Court was deciding, the nursing home arbitration agreement stated, “[s]igning this Agreement is voluntary and not a condition of the Patient’s admission into this Center. The Patient’s ability to be cared for in this Center will not be affected in any way if this Agreement is not signed.” It also stated in three locations that signing the arbitration agreement will result in the waiver of a right to trial by judge or jury, clarifying that waiver means “giving up” in paragraph 5.
Prior to Davis’s signing of the Arbitration Agreement, Ramey granted Davis certain powers pursuant to a written general durable power of attorney, dated August 27, 1996. Davis presented this power of attorney during his meeting at Hillcrest. Davis was permitted to take the documents with him and fax them back once signed. Davis signed, as Ramey’s power of attorney, the Arbitration Agreement, along with the other admission paperwork, and faxed the completed documents to Hillcrest. Ramey was admitted to Hillcrest on April 7, 2015.
Upon reviewing the forms during his deposition, Davis recalled that he took the forms home, filled them out, signed them, and faxed them to Hillcrest upon completion. He stated that he did not read them before signing, and that he had no time to discuss the admission process with anyone. The trial court overruled Appellants’ objections because it found the Arbitration Agreement procedurally and substantively unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable, based on the manner in which the document was presented, the limitation on damages, and because the document was a standardized form “concerning a legal matter outside the ken of the ordinary consumer.”
The Pennsylvania Appellate Court held: “we conclude that the trial court’s finding that Davis did not have a meaningful choice in entering into the Arbitration Agreement was not supported by substantial evidence, and therefore the trial court abused its discretion in overruling the preliminary objections on the basis of procedural unconscionability … Notably, Davis hired an attorney to help him with the paperwork for admitting his mother to Hillcrest, and employed that attorney to speak with Hillcrest about admission prior to his visiting … we conclude that the trial court’s finding of unconscionability, rendering the otherwise valid Arbitration Agreement unenforceable, was not supported by substantial evidence.”
Source Davis v. 1245 Church Road Operations, LLC, J-A04021-20.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries (or worse) while a resident of a nursing home in Pennsylvania or in another U.S. state due to a nursing home fall, nursing home aspiration, nursing home neglect, nursing home negligence, nursing home abuse, nursing home under-staffing, or the nursing home failing to properly care for a vulnerable adult, you should promptly find a nursing home claim lawyer in Pennsylvania or in your state who may investigate your nursing home claim for you and file a nursing home claim on your behalf or behalf of your loved one, if appropriate.
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