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Walker v. Collyer, et al. (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-051-14)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA 02108-1750;  (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us       12‑P‑1898                                       Appeals Court   CHARLES G. WALKER  vs.  JENNIFER COLLYER, administratrix,[1] & others.[2]     No. 12‑P‑1898. Suffolk.     September 13, 2013.  ‑  May 23, 2014. Present:  Cohen, Katzmann, & Agnes, JJ.   Arbitration, Appeal of order compelling arbitration, Authority of arbitrator, Arbitrable question.  Contract, Arbitration.  Nursing Home.  Medical Malpractice, Contract with doctor.  Estoppel.  Agency, Liability of agent, Independent contractor.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on January 25, 2012.   The case was heard by Carol S. Ball, J.     Curtis R. Diedrich for the plaintiff. Scott D. Peterson for Jennifer Collyer. John J. Barter, for Professional Liability Foundation, Ltd., amicus curiae, submitted a brief.     KATZMANN, J.  Charles Walker, a physician, seeks to avoid being compelled to arbitrate a medical malpractice claim brought by the representative of a deceased patient, Karl Collyer.  Walker treated Karl at The Oaks Nursing Center (The Oaks or the facility), a facility at which Walker practices medicine and serves as subacute rehabilitation (rehab) program medical director.  Karl and the facility signed an arbitration agreement covering disputes arising from his treatment; Walker did not sign the agreement.  In the Superior Court, Walker challenged an arbitrator’s order compelling him to participate in an arbitration proceeding commenced pursuant to the agreement.  He now appeals from the judgment entered in the Superior Court affirming the arbitrator’s decision ordering Walker to arbitration.  We conclude that the question whether Walker was bound by the arbitration agreement despite being a nonsignatory was a question for the court and not the arbitrator.  We further conclude, based upon the undisputed material facts, that Walker is not bound by the agreement. While our courts have determined that under some circumstances a party who did not sign an arbitration agreement can take advantage of an agreement signed by an allied party to compel a signatory to arbitrate, we have not decided the question in the converse that is posed by this case:  Can a signatory to an arbitration agreement compel a nonsignatory to arbitrate by virtue of the agreement that he has not signed?  Other courts, particularly the Federal courts, have considered such situations, enumerating the circumstances in which a signatory can compel a nonsignatory to arbitrate.  We find persuasive the framework laid out clearly by the Federal courts and hold that Collyer, as administratrix of Karl’s […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - May 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm

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