U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Overturn Rulings Allowing Wrongful Death Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes
Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) June 13, 2013 – The U.S. Supreme Court declined to overturn two rulings allowing wrongful death lawsuits against nursing homes, including an Illinois case.
The Illinois case involves Joyce Gott, who died while under the care of Odin Healthcare Center, a residential nursing home in Odin, Illinois. Gott's daughter, Sue Carter, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nursing home. The nursing home argued that because Carter had signed an arbitration agreement on her mother's behalf, she should not be allowed to bring a wrongful death suit in court. The Illinois Supreme Court allowed the wrongful death lawsuit to proceed, and the U.S. Supreme Court has now declined to hear the case.
Both the plaintiff and her mother had signed an agreement with the nursing home stating that “all disputes against each other” where the amount in controversy is $200,000 or greater would be submitted to binding arbitration, including any disputes involving alleged personal injury or improper or inadequate care. When Carter filed a wrongful death and survival act lawsuit, Odin Healthcare moved to compel arbitration of both claims.
The Illinois Supreme Court rejected Carter’s argument that there was no mutuality of obligation in the arbitration agreement. It thus held arbitration must be compelled for claims for negligence or statutory violations that occurred while Gott was living. However, the court ruled that the wrongful death claim was not arbitrable. Because Carter signed the arbitration agreement only as her mother's legal representative, and not in her capacity as special representative on behalf of Gott’s next of kin, the court held that she was not a party to the arbitration agreement.
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