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Cotton v. Ggnsc Batesville, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

July 23, 2014

SHIRLEY COTTON, as Administratrix of the Estate of Ida Roberson (deceased), and on behalf of her heirs and wrongful death beneficiaries, Plaintiff,


DEBRA M. BROWN, District Judge.

This is a wrongful death action originally brought in the Circuit Court of Panola County by Plaintiff Shirley Cotton against various entities associated with Golden Living Center Batesville, the nursing facility at which her deceased mother, Ida Roberson, received treatment in April and May 2011. Plaintiff alleges that Golden Living Center Batesville provided substandard care that proximately caused her mother's death. The case was removed to this Court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction.[1] Doc. #1 at 2. This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Proceeding and to Compel Arbitration, Doc. #13, and on Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration, Doc. #30.


Applicable Law

Defendants have moved to dismiss this matter and to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement executed by Plaintiff, purportedly on behalf of her mother. Doc. #14. "A two-step analysis is applied to determine whether a party may be compelled to arbitrate. First, [the court] ask[s] if the party agreed to arbitrate the dispute. If so, [the court] then ask[s] if any federal statute or policy renders the claims nonarbitratable." Sherer v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC, 548 F.3d 379, 381 (5th Cir. 2008) (internal citations omitted). Here, neither party argues that arbitration is barred by a federal statute or policy. Accordingly, resolution of Defendants' motion to compel hinges on whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the dispute. Id.

In order to determine whether parties agreed to arbitrate a dispute, the court must answer two questions: "(1) is there a valid agreement to arbitrate the claims and (2) does the dispute in question fall within the scope of that arbitration agreement." Sherer, 548 F.3d at 381. These questions, in turn, are answered by applying relevant state law. First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 943 (1995) ("When deciding whether the parties agreed to arbitrate a certain matter... courts generally... should apply ordinary state-law principles that govern the formation of contracts."); see also Cook v. GGNSC Ripley, LLC, 786 F.Supp.2d 1166, 1169 (N.D. Miss. 2011) (citing Kaplan, 514 U.S. at 943). The required elements must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence by the party seeking to compel arbitration. Grant v. Houser, 469 Fed.App'x 310, 315 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Banks v. Mitsubishi Motors Credit of Am., Inc., 156 Fed.App'x 710, 712 (5th Cir. 2005)).


Relevant Evidence

In support of their motion, Defendants submitted an "Admission Agreement" providing for the medical care of Ida Roberson at the Golden Living Center. Doc. #23-2. The Admission Agreement, which was dated April 19, 2011, listed Golden Living Center and Ida Robertson as the sole parties to the agreement. Id. The document was signed by Plaintiff as the "person duly authorized by Resident or by law to execute this Admission Agreement." Id. at 10. The first page of the Admission Agreement contains a Table of Contents which lists "Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement" as an included document. Id. at 1.

Defendants have also submitted an undated Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement between "Golden Living Center" and Ida Roberson ("ADR Agreement") signed by Plaintiff as the "Agent" of her mother. Doc. #23-1 at 5. The ADR Agreement provides that "[t]he parties agree that any disputes covered by this Agreement (Covered Disputes') that may arise between them shall be resolved exclusively by an ADR process that shall include mediation and, where mediation is not successful, binding arbitration." Id. at 1. The ADR Agreement defined "covered disputes" as "any and all disputes arising out of or in any way relating to this Agreement or to the Resident's stay at the Facility or the Admissions Agreement between the Parties that would constitute a legally cognizable cause of action in a court of law...." Id. at 2. Pursuant to its terms, the ADR Agreement was "not a condition of admission to or continued residence in [Golden Living]." Id. at 1 (emphasis omitted).

Plaintiff does not dispute that she signed the Admission Agreement or ADR Agreement. She contends, however, that she lacked power of attorney with regard to her mother. Doc. #20 at 4. In support of this argument, Plaintiff has submitted a February 15, 2011, General Power of Attorney bearing Ida Roberson's name and purporting to give Power of Attorney to "Shirley Cotton and Annie Reed." Doc. #20-2. Although notarized, the document lacks the signature of Ms. Roberson and of a witness. Id.

Finally, Defendants have submitted an affidavit from Daphne Rodgers, the notary of the General Power of Attorney document. Doc. #24-5. In her affidavit, Ms. Rodgers avers that at the time the document was notarized, Ida Roberson telephonically "indicated that she wished to designate Ms. Cotton and Ms. Reed as her Attorneys in Fact, as her voluntary act."[2] Id. at ΒΆ 4.


Motion to Dismiss ...

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