Gross v. GGNSC Southaven, LLC, No. 15-60124 (5th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
After Pauline Tillman Wagner and Ida Roberson died in Mississippi nursing homes run by Golden Living Southaven and Golding Living Center Batesville, Wagner's son (Sammy Gross) and Roberson's daughter (Shirley Cotton) filed suit against the nursing homes. After removal to federal court, the district court subsequently denied Southaven and Batesville's motion to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements that the adult children had signed for their mothers when admitting them to the homes. The court held that the Mississippi Supreme Court would not adopt the district court’s formal device requirement and would instead permit parties to establish the existence of an agency relationship with other types of evidence. The court concluded that Gross's sworn testimony is competent evidence on the question of Gross’s agency and its scope. Because the existence and scope of an actual agency relationship is a question of fact the district court did not reach, the court could not decide the actual agency issue as a matter of law. Therefore, the court remanded for the district court for a factual finding on this issue in the first instance. Likewise, the same situation applies to Cotton, and the court remanded for the district court for a factual finding on this issue in the first instance. The court rejected defendant's estoppel argument. Finally, the court concluded that Batesville's apparent authority argument fails because it failed to put forth evidence of detrimental reliance; the district court properly rejected Batesville's ratification theory based on insufficient evidence; and the court declined to address the forum issue. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded.