The Use of Arbitration Agreement Takes a Hit in Illinois
The prospect of significantly reducing the expense of claims and no longer having to consider the unpredictability of juries was an opportunity nursing home operators simply could not pass up. Many facilities rushed to revise their admissions contracts to include arbitration agreements.
In 2011, the appellate court ruled again on the case. The court found that plaintiffs wrongful death claims could not be subject to arbitration, as plaintiff had not signed off on the agreement in her individual capacity. The case then went up to the Supreme Court again.
On September 20, 2012, the Illinois Supreme Court filed its opinion in the Carter v. SSC Odin Operating Co. case. The court revisited the issue of whether arbitration agreements contained within nursing home contracts are enforceable. The Wrongful Death Act allows for claims to be made after the death of a decedent due to injuries suffered by the next of kin as a result of the loss of the decedent. The Court found that such claims were not subject to the arbitration agreements at issue. A wrongful death action is not one that the decedent can control while she is alive, so she could not have controlled whether or not it would be arbitrated.
Arbitration is a function of contract, so only the parties to the arbitration contract will be bound to arbitrate. The Supreme Court therefore held that the plaintiff was bound to arbitrate the personal injury claims of the resident that survived her death and which were brought for the benefit of her estate. The plaintiff was not bound by the arbitration agreement with respect to the wrongful death claims brought on behalf of the next of kin. The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.
For more information visit: www.state.il.us/court/opinions/SupremeCourt/2012/113204.pdf
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