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Cotton v. GGNSC Batesville, LLC

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

March 24, 2015

SHIRLEY COTTON, as Administratrix of, the Estate of Ida Roberson (deceased), and on behalf of her heirs and wrongful death beneficiaries Plaintiff,
v.
GGNSC BATESVILLE, LLC, d/b/a Golden Living Center Batesville; GGNSC ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, LLC; GOLDEN LIVING; and GOLDEN LIVING-CENTER, Defendants.

ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AND COMPEL ARBITRATION

DEBRA M. BROWN, District Judge.

This wrongful death action is brought by Plaintiff Shirley Cotton on behalf of the Estate of her mother Ida Roberson, and her mother's heirs, against Defendants GGNSC Batesville, LLC, and GGNSC Administrative Services, LLC. Doc. #2. Plaintiff alleges that Roberson died as a result of negligent care administered at Golden Living Center Batesville, a nursing home run by Defendants. Id. Before the Court is Defendants' renewed motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Doc. #36.

I

Procedural History

On May 22, 2013, Plaintiff filed a "Complaint for Medical Malpractice and Common Law Negligence" in the Circuit Court of Panola County, Mississippi. Doc. #2. On July 2, 2013, Defendants removed the action to this Court. Doc. #1. Approximately two weeks later, on July 18, 2013, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the proceeding and to compel arbitration. Doc. #13.

On July 23, 2014, this Court issued an order denying the motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. Doc. #31. In its order, the Court granted Defendants leave to conduct limited arbitration-related discovery, and "if the discovered facts warrant, to renew their motion to compel arbitration." Id. at 10.

On August 19, 2014, Defendants filed a renewed motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Doc. #36. Plaintiff responded and Defendants replied within the time allowed. Doc. #38; Doc. #41.

II

Standard

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. #36. "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' renewed motion 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. House r, 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)).

III

Evidentiary Record

From approximately October 2010 until April 2011, Ida Roberson lived in a home in Sledge, Mississippi, with her son Raymond. Doc. #36-1 at 9. During this time, Roberson was in "good" physical and mental condition, and was of sound mind. Id. at 10.

In February 2011, three of Roberson's family members, including Raymond, "had cancer and [were] passing away." Doc. #36-1 at 14-15. Due to these illnesses, Roberson "felt she needed a little protection." Id. at 14. Specifically, with Raymond sick, Roberson told Plaintiff that "[i]f I need y'all to go do something for me, then I need you to do it because I'm going to be with him." Id. at 15. Based on this assertion, Plaintiff believed that Roberson wanted a document which "would allow [her] to go handle things for [Roberson] if she wasn't available to." Id.

Accordingly, Roberson, Plaintiff, and Annie Reed (Roberson's daughter and Plaintiff's sister) began the process of completing a "General Power of Attorney" form. Id. at 14-16. The document provided, in relevant part, "that Ida Roberson has made and appointed, and by these presents does make and appoint Shirley Cotton and Annie Reed true and lawful attorney for him/her...." Doc. #24-4. Although the form is type-written, the names Ida Roberson, Shirley Cotton, and Annie Reed, are ...


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