Pennsylvania Record

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Phila. judge urges appeals court to affirm decision rejecting ADR agreement signed by mother in hospital negligence case

By Jon Campisi | Aug 23, 2012

Philadelphia common pleas court judge allan tereshko

A Philadelphia trial court judge issued an opinion earlier this month in which he seeks to

have a previous decision refusing to enforce an alternative dispute resolution agreement between a city hospital and a former patient held up on appeal.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Allan L. Tereshko says the court did not err in refusing to enforce the ADR agreement between Kindred Hospital Philadelphia and Trenton, N.J. resident Lakeysha Walton.

Walton is a patient who underwent a gastric bypass procedure at Robert Wood Johnson on Jan. 13, 2010.

About a week after the procedure, Lakeysha Walton began to experience abdominal pain and vomiting, at which time she went to the Robert Wood Johnson emergency room and was diagnosed with a bowel obstruction and gastric perforation, according to background information on the litigation.

She remained at Robert Wood Johnson until Feb. 12, 2010, during which she experienced loss of consciousness, renal failure and infection.

During her time at the facility, Lakeysha Walton also developed bedsores on her sacrum and buttocks.

In mid February of that year, the woman was transferred to Kindred Hospital Philadelphia, where she remained until April 20, 2010.

The then-36-year-old Lakeysha Walton was in a comatose state at the time of her admission to Kindred Hospital, something that allegedly caused her bedsores to worsen.

On March 2, 2010, halfway through Lakeysha Walton’s stay at Kindred, her mother, Nancy Walton, signed a voluntary Alternative Dispute Resolution Agreement with the hospital as her daughter’s “legal representative,” although Lakeysha Walton had never given her mother power of attorney and never authorized her to make decisions on her behalf, according to the court opinion.

Nancy Walton claimed she never recalled signing the ADR agreement nor did she recall anyone from Kindred explaining the ADR agreement to her.

The mother claimed she merely thought she was signing documents that allowed the hospital to treat her daughter.

On Jan. 12 of this year, Lakeysha Walton commenced a negligence action against Robert Wood Johnson and Kindred Hospital Philadelphia, the record shows.

Robert Wood was eventually dismissed as a defendant in the case, but Kindred Hospital remained embroiled in the litigation.

On May 10 of this year, after a review of Kindred Hospital’s preliminary objections to the complaint, the court overruled the objections and ordered Kindred to answer the complaint within 20 days.

The hospital appealed the judicial order, complaining that the court erred in refusing to enforce the ADR agreement; the court had ruled the plaintiff’s mother did not have the legal authority to execute the agreement.

In his Aug. 1 opinion, Judge Tereshko wrote that the ADR agreement is only binding upon the plaintiff if her mother had the authority to act on her behalf.

In the current case, the plaintiff never gave her mother power of attorney and never authorized her mother to make any decisions on her behalf, according to the opinion.

Tereshko said his decision not to enforce the ADR agreement was consistent with case law.

The judge wrote that Kindred Hospital has failed to satisfy the burden of establishing an agency relationship, with the defendant offering no evidence of a writing expressly granting Nancy Walton actual authority.

“Second, Appellants have not produced any evidence demonstrating that Plaintiff was aware of the ADR clause, authorized her mother to sign the agreement, or otherwise agreed to arbitrate any disputes,” Tereshko wrote. “Moreover, Appellants were aware that Plaintiff was in a coma upon her admission to Kindred Hospital Philadelphia and have failed to offer any evidence of Plaintiff’s conduct at the time the ADR Agreement was executed.”

Tereshko went on to write that the deposition testimony of both the plaintiff and her mother indicates that Lakeysha Walton was not aware of the arbitration clause, did not authorize her mother to sign the ADR agreement, or otherwise agree to arbitrate any disputes.

“As such, no agency relationship existed between Plaintiff and her mother,” the opinion states. “Therefore, Plaintiff’s mother did not have authority to sign the ADR Agreement.”

Tereshko further stated that the defendants failed to follow the Rules of Appellate Procedures in filing their appeal.

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