PA Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Nursing Home’s Request To Enforce Arbitration Clause

On August 27, 2013, the PA Supreme Court denied a Petition for Allowance of Appeal filed by a nursing home defendant seeking to overturn a Decision by the PA Superior Court in the case of Setlock v. Pinebrook Personal Care and Retirement Center, 68 MAL 2013 (Pa. Super. 2012), allocator denied, (Pa. Aug. 27 2013). On October 23, 2012, an Opinion by PA Superior Court Judge Mundy had ruled the Trial Court was correct in denying the Nursing Home’s petition to compel arbitration and in allowing the case to proceed to a Jury trial in the County Court. It was alleged that a nursing home aide had transported the resident to a medical appointment and was pushing her in a wheelchair which did not have a foot rest or a safety harness. It was further alleged that the resident’s feet got entangled causing her to be catapulted from the chair causing her to fall on her head and suffer fatal injuries. The Nursing Home claimed that because the resident and her relative signed a Resident Agreement agreeing to arbitrate  any dispute arising from the agreement that the Plaintiff had no right to go to court for the Death Claim.  Judge Mundy in writing for the majority ruled that to make the leap to include tort liability for the wrongful death as encompassed under the terms of the Residential Agreement was far too attenuated. Therefore, the instant wrongful death action was a distinctly different cause of action from anything contemplated by the terms of the residential agreement, and as a result the resident’s representative should not be compelled to arbitrate the matter. Accordingly, because the PA Superior Court concluded that the wrongful death action instituted on behalf of the Resident did not arise from a dispute involving the Resident Agreement, it affirmed the trial court’s order denying the Nursing Home’s ’s petition to compel arbitration.

Many nursing homes across PA require residents and their family members to sign Resident Agreements that attempt to deprive those individuals of important legal rights. Therefore one must be very careful before signing any such agreement. Before signing consult with your family attorney for advice.  If you or a close family member has suffered injury and/or neglect at a nursing home consider contacting one of our skilled attorneys at Liever, Hyman & Potter. We have represented the seriously injured in Eastern and Central Pennsylvania for more than 50 years. We are uniquely qualified to assist you in learning of your rights and in taking the steps necessary to protect those rights . From the desk of John R. Badal, President of the law firm of Liever, Hyman & Potter serving Reading, Pottsville,  Berks County, Schuylkill County and all surrounding areas.

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