Court honors unsigned arbitration agreement

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A Pennsylvania nursing home resident who sued for neglect was recently ordered by a federal judge to submit to binding arbitration instead, even though the document authorizing it was not signed by a facility representative.

James McLaughlin was admitted to THI of Pennsylvania at Mountainview LLC in 2013 after his wife signed an admission agreement that included language specifying both parties would submit to arbitration should any controversy or dispute arise, according to published reports.

The following year, McLaughlin sued the facility, alleging negligent care resulted in numerous fall injuries, infections, dehydration and malnutrition. THI asked the state court to compel McLaughlin to honor the arbitration agreement, but the man sought to dismiss the request on the grounds the facility left the arbitration agreement unsigned.

In denying McLaughlin's motion to dismiss the facility's challenge, Chief Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly cited Pennsylvania law stating that a party whose signature isn't on a document still may be found to have agreed to the contract's terms “through words or conduct.” The court also found that no reasonable basis existed to conclude THI did not agree to the document.