Golden Living Center – Tylertown v. Virgie Dillon

Dillon was admitted to Tylertown, a nursing facility in Tylertown, Mississippi, on August 12, 2003. Dillon has continued to reside at the facility through the present. On May 18, 2009, Dillon executed a general durable power of attorney appointing her sister, Arverta Hargrove, as her “true and lawful attorney-in-fact.” This power of attorney authorized Hargrove “to execute, deliver and acknowledge agreements” and “to arrange for my entrance to and care at any hospital, nursing home, health center, convalescent home, retirement home, or similar institution, and to authorize, arrange for, and consent to, waive and terminate any and all medical and surgical procedures on my behalf, including the administration of drugs, and to pay all bills for my care.”

On May 21, 2009, Hargrove became Dillon’s responsible party for her residency at Tylertown. Consistent with her authority as power of attorney, Hargrove executed an admission agreement for Dillon with Tylertown. Dillon and Hargrove also executed a resident and facility arbitration agreement as part of the admission-documents packet.

On October 2, 2009, Dillon, by and through Hargrove, filed suit in the Walthall County Circuit Court, alleging that she sustained injuries over the years as the result of deficient care at the facility. Tylertown subsequently filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay discovery. Dillon filed a response, attacking the validity of the arbitration agreement based on “insufficient” consideration and a lack of voluntariness. She also claimed that any agreement to arbitrate should apply only to claims which arose after the contract was executed on May 21, 2009.

After a hearing held in the Walthall County Circuit Court on February 10, 2010, the circuit court filed an order on March 12, 2010, which denied in part Tylertown’s motion to compel arbitration and stay discovery. The order stated that the court found the arbitration agreement to be valid and enforceable as to any claims arising after its execution, but regarding any claims which arose prior to execution, the agreement failed for lack of consideration. Tylertown moved to reopen the time for appeal, and Dillon moved for an expedited trial setting. The circuit judge granted Tylertown an additional fourteen days from the entry of its July 8, 2010 order to file its notice of appeal, and he further ordered that the parties confer on a scheduling order including an early 2011 trial setting. Tylertown filed this notice of appeal on July 20, 2010.

Tylertown contended that the contract by which the parties agreed to arbitrate all claims related to Virgie Dillon’s care at the facility was valid and enforceable, and that the circuit court’s partial refusal to compel arbitration should be overturned. Finding error in the circuit court’s judgment, the court affirmed in part and reversed and rendered in part.