Lawsuit against Calif. health care center going to arbitration because of previous agreements

By Dee Thompson | Sep 5, 2017

SAN DIEGO (Legal Newsline) – A case from the San Diego County Superior Court alleging elder abuse will go to arbitration, the California 4th District Court of Appeal has ruled.

The defendants in the suit include Italian Maple Holdings, owner of La Paloma Healthcare Center in Oceanside, California. The court made the ruling July 31

According to the appeals court's decision, Marlene Baker LaBerge, 73, was admitted to La Paloma Healthcare Center in September 2014 with osteomyelitis (a bone infection) and high blood pressure. The opinion states staff found her vomiting in a restroom on Oct. 5, 2014, and left her alone. 

Later, she was found on the floor after a fall and taken to a hospital, where she later died. The opinion states an autopsy concluded she died of blunt force injuries to her head and torso.

A week after LaBerge was admitted to La Paloma, she had allegedly signed two arbitration agreements that said the parties had 30 days to rescind the agreement. LaBerge died 10 days after signing the agreements.

Her heirs - Suzanne Marx, Paul LaBerge and Talmadge Baker - filed suit alleging elder abuse, violations of the Patient's Bill of Rights as codified at Health and Safety Code section 1430, negligence and wrongful death.

The defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. They argued that the arbitration agreements were in effect. They cited a more recent case, Scott v. Yoho (2016), that concluded that “The 30-day rescission period contained in section 1295, subdivision (c) violates the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and is thus preempted,” according to the opinion.

According to the opinion, “The superior court denied the petition to compel arbitration, relying on Rodriguez v. Superior Court (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 1461 (Rodriguez) to conclude that the agreements were not effective until the 30-day rescission period passed without either party rescinding the agreements; because LaBerge died before the expiration of the 30-day rescission period, the agreements could not be given effect.”

The appellate court concluded that the arbitration agreements are valid.

Jon Williams of Williams Iagmin LLP, defense attorney, would not comment on the decision.

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