ARBITRATION-SKILLED NURSING HOME

July 25th, 2022 by Rieders Travis in Arbitration

Kohlman v. Grane Healthcare, 2022 Pa. Super. LEXIS 296 (July 5, 2022) (Colins, J.)  Highland Park appealed from order of Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County overruling their POs that sought to compel arbitration of claims asserted against them by Kohlman, administratrix of the estate of Vincent.  The Superior Court affirmed.  The decedent signed a number of documents, including the arbitration agreement.  The court said that decedent’s medical records showed she was receiving Oxycodone and Xanax from the day she was admitted through February 1st.  The court went through all of the evidence.  The record shows that arbitration provisions were omitted or not fully and accurately stated in the oral information given to decedent which was the only information decedent had when she decided to sign the arbitration agreement.  Because decedent was not fully orally advised of this information and was denied the ability to obtain assistance from a family member or other person not employed by Highland Park who could read the arbitration agreement, the process by which decedent’s signature was obtained denied her a meaningful choice and therefore was procedurally unconscionable.  On the issue of substantive unconscionability, the court said the rejected claims of substantive unconscionability are not to the contrary.  We agree that imposing this additional expense on all claims for damages brought by resident unreasonably favors the nursing home and is sufficient to satisfy the requirement of substantive unconscionability where, as here, the record establishes the resident was not given full information concerning her choices or any opportunity to inform herself of what she was signing or to exercise her choices.  Because the circumstances under which Highland Park obtained Decedent’s signature on the Arbitration Agreement imposed terms unfavorable to her without giving her any meaningful choice to accept or reject the Arbitration Agreement, the trial court correctly concluded that the Arbitration Agreement was unconscionable as a matter of law. Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion and affirm the trial court’s order overruling the Highland Park Defendants’ preliminary objection to compel arbitration.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]