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Arbitration Agreement, by Post-Stroke 83-Year-Old with Neurological Deficit, Void


An 83-year-old man was admitted to a nursing home from the hospital, where he had been admitted after suffering a stroke. The man arrived at the nursing home on a stretcher. The man had been diagnosed with various serious health conditions including difficulty walking, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), generalized muscle weakness, cerebrovascular disease, congestive heart failure, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and unspecified tachycardia.

 

During the man’s admission, the nursing home staff completed an evaluation form. The form indicated that the man’s speech was unclear and slurred. On the same date, a nursing home staff member wrote a note which stated that the man had a neurological deficit and left facial droop. The man’s cognition was referred to as alert.

 

During the man’s nine week stay at the nursing home, the man was admitted to the hospital from the nursing home for treatment four times. After nine weeks in the nursing home, the man died.

 

The man’s estate filed a claim for negligence, wrongful death, and survival against the nursing home. The complaint alleged that due to the nursing home’s negligence or recklessness, the man suffered serious injuries, including the development of multiple pressure wounds, and death.

 

The nursing home filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to its admission agreement, a 17-page document that the man signed the day he was admitted. The man initialed some but not all of the provisions of the agreement. One of the provisions the man initialed was an arbitration clause.

 

The Law Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Burlington County, denied the nursing home’s motion to compel arbitration. The trial court determined that the arbitration agreement could not be enforced because the nursing home had not carried its burden of showing that there was a meeting of the minds between the parties to the agreement.

 

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed. The court held that the record supported the trial court’s determination that there was no meeting of the minds between the man and the nursing home regarding the arbitration agreement and the trial court did not err by considering the man’s physical condition and the circumstances in which the man signed the agreement in concluding that there was insufficient evidence of a meeting of the minds.

 

The record supported the trial court’s determination that there was no meeting of the minds between the man and the nursing home regarding the arbitration agreement. The court noted that the man had initialed some but not all of the terms of the agreement. There was no indication that any of the supplemental documents referred to in the agreement had been provided to the man. There was no indication that the man had been provided with a copy of the AAA arbitration rules. There also was no indication that the man was given the opportunity to rescind the agreement or consult with an attorney regarding its terms.

 

The trial court did not err by considering the man’s physical condition and the circumstances in which the man signed the agreement in concluding that there was insufficient evidence of a meeting of the minds. The court noted that the man was 83 years old, had recently been hospitalized after suffering a stroke, and had arrived on a stretcher directly from the hospital. The court also noted that the man had been diagnosed with a variety of serious ailments, including congestive heart failure, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease. The man’s speech was slurred, and the nursing home’s staff noted that the man had a neurological deficit, specifically a “left facial droop.” The court reasoned that the evidence supported the trial court’s determination that there was never a meeting of minds between the parties and, therefore, no enforceable agreement between the parties.

 

The Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed the trial court’s denial of the nursing home’s motion to compel arbitration.

 

See: Patterson v. Care One at Moorestown, LLC, 2017 WL 676996 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., February 21, 2017) (not designated for publication).

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives, September 2016 Report: Stroke: Challenges, Risks, and Liability Issue

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives, November 2015 Report: Risks in Caring for Patients with Cognitive Impairments: Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

 

See also Medical Law Perspectives, February 2015 Report: Mending a Broken Heart: Malpractice Risks in Diagnosing and Treating Heart Disease

 

 

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