Attorneys William Mundy and Ira Podheiser represented a nursing-home defendant sued in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas for survival damages and wrongful death by the estate of a deceased resident. Mundy and Podheiser attempted to enforce an arbitration clause that was part of a larger admissions agreement that the resident had signed. The trial court refused to enforce the arbitration provision, stating that he believed the arbitration provision was not voluntary because it does not expressly utilize the word “voluntary” in the written agreement. In addition, the trial court also found that the resident lacked the requisite capacity to understand what she was signing.
Mundy and Podheiser appealed to the Superior Court, and following briefing and oral argument the Court reversed the trial court and ordered the case to proceed to arbitration on the estate’s survival claim. The Court first found that the agreement was not substantively unconscionable. The arbitration provision, while it did not expressly use the word “voluntary” nonetheless was voluntary, because it contained a 30-day opt out provision. Second, the Court found that the record established that the decedent was indeed able to understand the terms of the agreement prior to signing, as upon admission the admissions staff found her to be sufficiently alert and oriented. The Superior Court’s opinion, while non-precedential, can still be cited in future cases as persuasive authority.