Published: May 27, 2016
By: Richard Ogrodowski
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has reaffirmed that an arbitration agreement executed by a decedent’s spouse is not binding on wrongful death beneficiaries. In Brosius v. HCR Manorcare, LLC, 2016 WL 1625790 (Pa. Super. April 25, 2016), William Brosius died while a resident at a Manor Care facility following his admission to recover from surgery to repair a broken right femur. The broken femur resulted from a ladder fall. Brosius’ wife signed an arbitration agreement with Manor Care, which included a requirement that claims of malpractice against Manor Care be submitted to arbitration.
Brosius’ wife, as executrix of the estate of Brosius, filed a complaint alleging wrongful death and survival claims. She further alleged that, due to the negligence of Manor Care, Brosius suffered a Stage III sacral ulcer, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sepsis, C-Diff, dehydration, and malnutrition, which caused Brosius’ death.
Manor Care filed preliminary objections to the complaint seeking to have the wrongful death and survival claims compelled to arbitration. This means that rather than have a jury decide whether Manor Care was negligent and, if so, the amount of damages to award on the wrongful death and survival claims, an impartial third-party would be the one to decide negligence and damages.
The trial court denied the preliminary objection citing the constitutional right of wrongful death beneficiaries to a jury trial and Pennsylvania’s interest in litigating wrongful death and survival claims together.
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania found the trial court did not err and that its recent decisions (Tuomi v. Extendicare, Inc., 119 A.3d 1030 (Pa. Super. 2015), Pisano v. Extendicare Homes, Inc., 77 A.3d 651 (Pa. Super. 2015), and Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 113 A.3d 317 (Pa. Super. 2015), appeal granted, 122 A.3d 1036 (Pa. 2015)) directly controlled the appeal.
In sum, if you have a loved one that passes away due to the negligence of a nursing home and the nursing home seeks to have claims of negligence arbitrated, you do not need to give in to to the nursing home. Rather, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania has made clear that the claims can proceed before a jury.