Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement Not Binding on Non-Signatory Wrongful Death Beneficiaries
Published: March 4, 2016
In Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 113 A.3d 317 (Pa. Super. 2015), the Superior Court of Pennsylvania addressed whether an arbitration agreement with a nursing home facility signed by the decedent’s authorized representative was binding on the wrongful death beneficiaries when a wrongful death claim was filed on behalf of the beneficiaries arising from a negligence claim. The Superior Court found that a wrongful death action is a separate action belonging to to the beneficiaries. As such, “an arbitration agreement signed by the decedent or his or her authorized representative is not binding upon non-signatory wrongful death beneficiaries.” Id. at 321. Additionally, the Superior Court refused to separate the survival act claim from the wrongful death claim so that the survival act claim could proceed in arbitration. In doing so, the court held: “the wrongful death beneficiaries’ constitutional right to a jury trial and the state’s interest in litigating wrongful death and survival claims together require that they all proceed in court rather than arbitration.” Id. at 328.
This is an important decision for anyone with a loved one in a nursing home. Just because an arbitration agreement is signed by a decedent or authorized representative, which is intended to take away the right to a jury trial, this does not mean it is binding on wrongful death beneficiaries.