Russomano v. Greenbrook Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center

 In Russomano v. Greenbrook Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Judge Goodzeit of the Somerset County Superior Court entered an order dismissing plaintiff’s complaint and compelling arbitration.  The plaintiff brought suit asserting that the defendants failed to provide appropriate care, treatment and services to the plaintiff’s decedent while at their nursing facility.  Upon entering the nursing facility, the plaintiff, by power of attorney, signed an admission agreement that contained an arbitration clause.  The plaintiff opposed the defendants’ motion to dismiss and compelling arbitration contending that the arbitration agreement between the parties was invalid.  The court found that the General Durable Power of Attorney appointing the plaintiff as the decedent’s agent ought to be read broadly and thus authorized the plaintiff to agree to arbitration.  The court also found that the agreement expressly stated that issues as to arbitrability, unconscionability, and preemption were decisions to be made by the arbitrator.  The court went on to reject the plaintiff’s contention that arbitration would require her to litigate in two separate forums thereby violating the entire controversy doctrine.  The court defended its conclusion reasoning that the doctrine is equitable in nature and applying it to this case would be inappropriate seeing as the plaintiff elected to arbitrate any and all claims arising out of the decedent’s stay at the nursing facility.  The court also noted that the Federal Arbitration Act governed the agreement, preempting the anti-arbitration provision of N.J.S.A. 30:13-8.1.

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