On January 4, 2019, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania vacated a May 23, 2017 ruling in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County that overruled the preliminary objections of Golden Gate National Senior Care, LLC. Those preliminary objections sought to compel arbitration.
At the trial court level, Golden Gate sought to enforce a compulsory ADR agreement signed by Mildred Snyder’s husband, Donald Snyder, upon Mrs. Snyder’s admission to the Golden Gate National Senior Care facility in 2006. However, the trial court overruled their preliminary objections arguing there was no meeting of the minds as to the ADR agreement, Mr. Snyder lacked the authority to execute the agreement, and the agreement lacked consideration and was unconscionable.
The Superior Court quickly determined that lower court abused its discretion in overruling Golden Gate’s preliminary objections. However, the Court first had to determine if it had authority to hear appeal of the interlocutory order. In Pennsylvania, an appeal may be taken from a court order denying an application to compel arbitration made under 42 Pa.C.S.A. 7304. The Pa. Supreme Court in Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 147 A.3d 490 (Pa. 2016) heard an appeal regarding the enforceability of an ADR provision similar to the provision in the present case. Therefore, the Court ruled it could move forward with reviewing the interlocutory order.
Once the court overcame that procedural hurdle, the court quickly disposed of the arguments that the trial court made in declining to enforce the ADR provision as the lower court failed to provide sufficient justification for its actions.
Although Golden Gate prevailed on appeal, their frustration at the added expense of motion and appellate practice would be understandable, in light of the clear binding ADR language in the agreement. Thanks to Garrett Gitler for his contribution to this post. Please email Brian Gibbons with any questions.