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Heineman v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society

Supreme Court of Nebraska

June 8, 2018

Mark Heineman, Appellee,
v.
The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, doing business as Good Samaritan Society-Scribner, et al., appellants.

         1. Arbitration and Award. Arbitrability presents a question of law. 2. Judgments: Appeal and Error. When reviewing questions of law, an appellate court resolves the questions independently of the lower court's conclusions.

         3. Trial: Evidence: Appeal and Error. Generally, it is not the function of an appellate court to review evidence which was not presented to the trial court.

         4. Evidence: Records: Appeal and Error. A bill of exceptions is the only vehicle for bringing evidence before an appellate court; evidence which is not made a part of the bill of exceptions may not be considered.

         5. Actions: Judicial Notice: Records: Appeal and Error. An appellate court may take judicial notice of a document, including briefs filed in an appeal, in a separate but related action concerning the same subject matter in the same court.

         6. Contracts: Consideration. Consideration is sufficient to support a contract if there is any detriment to the promisee or any benefit to the promisor.

         7. Arbitration and Award: Federal Acts: Contracts. If a contract containing an arbitration clause involves interstate commerce, the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq. (2012), governs the contract.

         8. Contracts: States: Words and Phrases. Contracts involving interstate commerce include contracts for services between parties of different states.

         9. Federal Acts: Contracts: Arbitration and Award: States. The Federal Arbitration Act, at 9 U.S.C. § 2 (2012), preempts inconsistent state laws that apply solely to the enforceability of arbitration provisions in contracts evidencing a transaction involving commerce.

          [300 Neb. 188] Appeal from the District Court for Dodge County: Geoffrey C. Hall, Judge. Reversed and remanded with directions.

          Nicholas A. Buda, Steven D. Davidson, and Lindsay K. Lundholm, of Baird Holm, L.L.P., and, on brief, Thomas E. Johnson for appellants.

          Douglas R. Novotny, of Novotny Law, L.L.C., for appellee.

          Heavican, C.J., Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and Papik, JJ., and Schreiner, District Judge.

          Cassel, J.

         INTRODUCTION

         A nursing home resident filed suit for personal injuries against the facility and several of its employees. The defendants moved to dismiss and compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement signed by the resident at the time of admission. The district court declared that the arbitration agreement was void and unenforceable on state law grounds and for being contrary to public policy. Because the court erred in both respects, we reverse, and remand with directions.

         BACKGROUND

         Mark Heineman filed a personal injury action against The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, doing business as Good Samaritan Society-Scribner, and several of its employees (collectively Evangelical Lutheran), for injuries he sustained as a resident at the Good Samaritan Society-Scribner nursing home. Heineman is a Nebraska resident and The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society is a nonprofit North Dakota corporation with its principal place of business in South Dakota.

         Evangelical Lutheran filed motions to dismiss or stay the proceedings and to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration clause within the admission agreement Heineman had signed before he was admitted as a resident in the nursing [300 Neb. 189] home. The signature on the second page of the arbitration section was dated February 11, 2015.

         The agreement included a "Resolution of Legal Disputes" section in which Heineman agreed to arbitrate "[a]ny legal controversy, dispute, disagreement or claim arising between the Parties" by checking a box next to, "YES I DO wish to arbitrate disputes and I received a copy of this Resolution of Legal Disputes." In addition to permitting the signor to either opt into or out of the arbitration clause, the contract stated that the agreement to arbitrate disputes was not a condition of admission or of continued stay. The arbitration agreement further provided: "This arbitration provision binds all parties whose claims may arise out of or relate to treatment or service provided by the center including any spouse or heirs of the Resident." And by signing the agreement, Heineman agreed that the "Resolution of Legal Disputes" provision shall be governed by and interpreted under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).[1]

         The district court held two hearings on the motions to dismiss and compel arbitration. The hearings were conducted on affidavits, one at each hearing, offered by Evangelical Lutheran. They were ...


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