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Ingram v. Brook Chateau

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

November 19, 2019

THERON INGRAM, Respondent,

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY The Honorable Justine E. Del Muro, Judge

          Zel M. Fischer, Judge

         I. Introduction

         Brook Chateau appeals the circuit court's overruling of its motion to dismiss and compel arbitration pursuant to § 435.440.1.[1] It argues the circuit court was required to compel arbitration under § 435.355 because Brook Chateau attached a valid arbitration agreement to its motion, signed on behalf of Theron Ingram pursuant to the authority granted by a written durable power of attorney, and Ingram refuses to arbitrate. The circuit court's order is reversed, and the case is remanded.

         II. Factual and Procedural History

         On November 6, 2015, Theron Ingram was admitted to a hospital after a severe motor vehicle collision which left him a quadriplegic. Prior to his discharge from the hospital, Ingram executed a written Durable Power of Attorney ("DPOA") providing in part:

1. Selection of Agent. I, Theron Ingram, currently a resident of Jackson County, Missouri, appoint the following person as my true and lawful attorney-in-fact ("Agent"):
Name: Andrea Nicole Hall. …
3. Durability. This is a Durable Power of Attorney, and the authority of my Agent, when effective, shall not terminate or be void or voidable if I am or become disabled or incapacitated or in the event of later uncertainty as to whether I am dead or alive.[2]
4. Effective Date. This Durable Power of Attorney is effective immediately and continues if I am incapacitated and unable to make and communicate a health-care decision as certified by two physicians.
5. Agent's Powers. I grant to my Agent full authority to: …
B. Make all necessary arrangements for health care services on my behalf and to hire and fire medical personnel responsible for my care;
C. Move me into, or out of, any health care or assisted living/residential care facility or my home (even if against medical advice) to obtain compliance with the decisions of my Agent;
D. Take any other action necessary to do what I authorize here, including, but not limited to, granting any waiver or release from liability required by any health care provider and taking any legal action at the expense of my estate to enforce this Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care;
E. Receive information regarding my health care, obtain copies of and review my medical records, consent to the disclosure of my medical records, and act as my "personal representative" as defined in the regulations [45 C.F.R. 164.502(g)] enacted pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA")[.]

(Emphasis added).

         On March 15, 2016, Ingram was discharged from the hospital and admitted to Brook Chateau, a residential care facility in Jackson County, Missouri. On the day of Ingram's admission, Hall executed a "Voluntary Arbitration Agreement" ("the Agreement") with Brook Chateau on Ingram's behalf. The Agreement provided, in part:

1. Agreement to Arbitrate "Disputes": All claims arising out of or relating to this Agreement, the Admission Agreement or any and all past or future admissions of the Patient at this Center … shall be submitted to arbitration. …
8. Right to Change Your Mind: This Agreement may be cancelled by written notice sent by certified mail to the Center's Administrator within 30 calendar days of the Patient's date of admission. If alleged acts underlying the dispute occur before the cancellation date, this Agreement shall be binding with respect to those alleged acts. If not cancelled, this Agreement shall be binding on the Patient for this and all of the Patient's subsequent admissions to the Center or any Sister Center without any need for further renewal.
9. Binding on Parties & Others: The Parties intend that this Agreement shall benefit and bind the Center, its parent, affiliates, and subsidiary companies, and shall benefit and bind the Patient (as defined herein), his/her successors, spouses, children, next of kin, guardians, administrators, and legal representatives. …
14. Health Care Decision: The Parties hereby stipulate that the decision to have the Patient move into this Center and the decision to agree to this Agreement are each a health care decision. The Parties stipulate that there are other health care facilities in this community currently available to meet the Patient's needs.

         In February 2018, Ingram filed a three-count petition in Jackson County alleging claims of negligence and seeking punitive damages. He alleges his quadriplegic state prevented him from turning himself independently and that "the nurses and staff at Brook Chateau failed to properly turn [him]." Ingram alleges this failure resulted in his development of pressure ulcers and multiple wounds.

         Brook Chateau responded to the petition by filing a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. Attached to the motion was the signed agreement. The circuit court, in line with § 435.355.1 calling for a summary procedure, [3] considered no evidence other than the documents attached to the pleadings and overruled Brook Chateau's motion. Brook Chateau appealed pursuant to § 435.440.1(1).[4] The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court's order, and this Court granted transfer.[5]

         III. ...

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