Simmons v. Simpson House, Inc., CIVIL ACTION No. 15–06636

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
Citation259 F.Supp.3d 200
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION No. 15–06636
Parties John SIMMONS, Plaintiff, v. SIMPSON HOUSE, INC., et al., Defendants.
Decision Date10 April 2017

259 F.Supp.3d 200

John SIMMONS, Plaintiff,
SIMPSON HOUSE, INC., et al., Defendants.

CIVIL ACTION No. 15–06636

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.

Signed April 10, 2017

259 F.Supp.3d 203

Rhonda Hill Wilson, Law Office of Rhonda Hill Wilson, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, for Plaintiff.

Jeffrey W. McDonnell, Law Office of Peter A. Callahan, Mary Ellen Reilly, Post & Schell, P.C., Gary M. Samms, Michael Joseph Ryan, Thomas L. Mueller, Obermayer Rebbmann Maxwell & Hippell LLP, Philadelphia, PA, John M. Skrocki, Christy L. Williamson, William J. Mundy, Burns White LLC, West Conshohocken, PA, for Defendants.


PAPPERT, District Judge.

John Simmons filed this lawsuit in his own right and as the administrator of his

259 F.Supp.3d 204

mother Ola's estate. He alleges that Ola Simmons moved into Simpson House Nursing Home because she was suffering from senile psychosis and episodic incontinence. During her five-month stay, she developed pressure sores, experienced excessive weight loss and contracted multiple infections. Ola was transferred to Prime–Roxborough Hospital where her condition continued to decline. After less than a month at Prime–Roxborough, she moved to Kindred Hospital and died roughly two months later while in hospice care.

John Simmons asserts claims of negligence, wrongful death and survival, and violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law ("UTPCPL") against Simpson House and Simpson House, Inc. ("Simpson House"), Prime Healthcare Services–Roxborough, LLC ("Prime–Roxborough") and Kindred Hospital–South Philadelphia and Kindred Healthcare Inc. ("Kindred").

Kindred filed a motion to dismiss Simmons's claims and enforce an arbitration agreement. (ECF No. 82.) The Court grants the motion with respect to claims brought on behalf of Ola Simmons, but denies the motion with respect to John Simmons's wrongful death claim.



John Simmons filed his Second Amended Complaint on July 28, 2016. (ECF No. 45.) All Defendants filed motions to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. Kindred's motion contended that Simmons's claims should be dismissed because Ola, through her legal guardian, agreed to arbitrate any dispute between her and Kindred. (ECF No. 55.) The Court denied Kindred's motion without prejudice and ordered limited discovery on the question of arbitrability. (ECF No. 67, at n.1.) Kindred's renewed motion to dismiss is before the Court. (ECF No. 82.)


This case's factual background is detailed in a prior opinion. See Simmons v. Simpson House, Inc. , 224 F.Supp.3d 406, 410–11 (E.D. Pa. 2016).

On May 7, 2014, Ola's court-appointed guardian, Yvette Rogers, signed Kindred's admissions paperwork. (Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 3, ECF No. 82 (hereinafter "SOF").) The papers included an Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement ("the Agreement"). (Def.'s Mot., Ex. B, ECF No. 82–5, at 5, hereinafter "ADR".) Rogers, a licensed attorney, had full authority to act on Ola's behalf. (SOF ¶ 9; Def.'s Mot., Ex. D., ECF No. 82–7.) By signing the Agreement, Rogers—and therefore Ola—agreed to resolve "any and all disputes that might arise between the Patient1 and the Hospital through alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation and arbitration." (ADR, at 1.) John Simmons did not sign the Agreement. (ADR, at 5.)

When deposed, Simmons acknowledged that Rogers was Ola's court-appointed guardian, possessing full legal authority to make decisions on Ola's behalf. (Simmons Dep., at 20:9–12; 34:6–9, ECF No. 82–6.) Simmons explained that Rogers was appointed Ola's guardian in 2011 or 2012 after a hearing where the court "assumed that [Ola] wasn't being properly taken care of and that her funds [were] being misused by another relative. So, they appointed her as the guardian." (Id. at 7:5–8:3.)

259 F.Supp.3d 205



"When it is apparent, based on the face of the complaint, and documents relied upon in the complaint, that certain of a party's claims are subject to an enforceable arbitration clause, a motion to compel arbitration should be considered under a Rule 12(b)(6) standard without discovery's delay." Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution , 716 F.3d 764, 776 (3d Cir. 2013) (quotation and citation omitted). However, "if the complaint and its supporting documents are unclear regarding the agreement to arbitrate, or if the plaintiff has responded to a motion to compel arbitration with additional facts sufficient to place the agreement to arbitrate in issue, then the parties should be entitled to discovery on the question of arbitrability before a court entertains further briefing on the question." Id. (quotation and citation omitted).

The Court held it was "not clear based on the face of the complaint and documents relied upon in the complaint that Simmons's claims [were] subject to an enforceable arbitration clause." (ECF No. 67, at n.1.) Accordingly, the Court ordered limited discovery. (Id. ) Limited discovery on the question of arbitrability is complete; Kindred's renewed motion to compel arbitration is now properly reviewed under the summary judgment standard. See Guidotti , 716 F.3d at 776.


Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Smathers v. Multi–Tool, Inc./Multi–Plastics, Inc. Emp. Health & Welfare Plan , 298 F.3d 191, 194 (3d Cir. 2002) ; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party will not suffice; there must be evidence by which a jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Id. at 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Summary judgment is appropriate where "the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

In reviewing the record, a court "must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor." Prowel v. Wise Bus. Forms , 579 F.3d 285, 286 (3d Cir. 2009). The court may not, however, make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in considering motions for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods. , 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000) ; see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk. Comm'n , 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).

"In the event that summary judgment is not warranted because the party opposing arbitration can demonstrate, by means of citations to the record, that there is a genuine dispute as to the enforceability of the arbitration clause, the court may then proceed summarily to a trial regarding the making of the arbitration agreement or the failure, neglect, or refusal to perform the same, as Section 4 of the [Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") ] envisions." Guidotti , 716 F.3d at 776 (quotation and citation omitted).


Kindred moved to dismiss all of Simmons's claims, on the grounds that arbitration

259 F.Supp.3d 206

must be compelled because Ola's legal representative and guardian signed the Agreement upon Ola's admission to Kindred's facility. The Court must first determine if the Agreement is valid. See Trippe Mfg. Co. v. Niles Audio Corp. , 401 F.3d 529, 532 (3d Cir. 2005). If it is, the Court must then decide if Simmons's Complaint falls within its scope. Id. "When a dispute consists of several claims, the court must determine on an issue-by-issue basis whether a party bears a duty to arbitrate." Trippe , 401 F.3d at 532 (citing Painewebber Inc. v. Hofmann , 984 F.2d 1372, 1376–77 (3d Cir. 1993) ). Moreover, "[w]hen determining both the existence and the scope of an arbitration agreement, there is a presumption in favor of arbitrability." Id. Simmons claims that the Agreement is invalid but argues alternatively that even if it is valid, his wrongful death claim against Kindred is beyond its scope.



"The FAA requires district courts to stay judicial proceedings and compel arbitration of claims covered by a written and enforceable arbitration agreement." James v. Global TelLink Corp. , 852 F.3d 262, 265 (3d Cir. 2017) ; see also 9 U.S.C. § 3. "Arbitration is a matter of contract between the parties and a judicial mandate to arbitrate must be predicated upon an agreement to that effect." Id. (quoting Par–Knit Mills, Inc. v. Stockbridge Fabrics Co. , 636 F.2d 51, 54 (3d Cir. 1980) ). "To determine whether a valid arbitration agreement exists" the Court must "apply ordinary state-law principles that...

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