Illinois Appellate Court Reversed Lower Court on Nursing Home Arbitration Clause in Wrongful Death Case

On March 1, 2013, Ann Sanders entered into a residence agreement with the defendant, Victory Centre of Melrose Park, SLF Inc., a licensed supportive living facility. Pursuant to an addendum to the residence agreement, the parties agreed that all claims arising out of that agreement, including those of malpractice, could not be brought in a court of law but would be submitted to binding arbitration.

Later, Sanders, who had diabetes, suffered a diabetic shock and lapsed into a diabetic coma. She was then taken to Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park, Ill., where she died on May 21, 2013.

Exactly two years after her death, a lawsuit was filed against Victory Centre of Melrose Park, SLF Inc. alleging negligence and seeking damages in connection with her death. In the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that Sanders’s death was due to the negligence of the nursing home. The lawsuit sought compensation for wrongful death under that statute, the Rights of Married Persons Act (commonly known as the Family Expense Act) and the Survival Act.

The nursing home then filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Section 2-619(a)(9) of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure maintaining that the addendum to the nursing home residence agreement required that the family expense and survival claims be submitted to binding arbitration and that the lawsuit be dismissed.

The defendant further requested that the wrongful death claim be stayed until the conclusion of the arbitration proceedings. The circuit court judge ruled that the family expense and survival claims were subject to binding arbitration, but the motion to stay the wrongful death proceedings was denied. On appeal, the sole issue was whether the judge in the circuit court erred in denying the defendant’s request to stay the proceedings in the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim pending the outcome of the arbitration proceedings.

In the opinion it was stated that “policies favoring arbitration support a stay of all court proceedings pending arbitration ‘where the arbitrable and nonarbitrable issues, although severable, are also interrelated in terms of a complete resolution of the cause between the parties,’” Casablanca Trax, Inc. v. Trax Records, Inc., 383 Ill. App.3d 183, 189 (2008) (quoting Kelso-Burnett Co. v. Zeus Development Corp., 107 Ill. App.3d 34, 41 (1982).

In this case, the appellate court found that all three of the plaintiff’s claims were based on the defendant’s negligence. The issues are sufficiently interrelated whether the defendant was negligent in its care of Sanders is definitive in the arbitrable claims and the wrongful death claim in the circuit court. The court concluded that allowing the arbitration to proceed first may eliminate the need for the court proceedings, thus meeting the goals of judicial economy and of resolving disputes outside of the judicial forum.  Kostakos v. KSN Joint Venture No. 1, 142 Ill. App.3d 533, 538 (1986).

The Illinois Appellate Court reversed the portion of the circuit court’s order denying the request to stay the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim.  The case was sent back to the circuit court for the entry of an order staying the proceedings in the plaintiff’s wrongful death claim until the conclusion of the arbitration of the plaintiff’s arbitrable claims.

Shirley Hayes v. Victory Centre of Melrose Park, SLF Inc. and Victory Centre of River Woods LLC, 2017 IL App (1st) 162207 (Nov. 9, 2017).

Kreisman Law Offices has been successfully handling Illinois nursing home negligence lawsuits, nursing home abuse cases and wrongful death cases for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of a medical provider at a nursing home or long- term care facility for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Highwood, Hinsdale, Itasca, Antioch, Aurora, Arlington Heights, Barrington, Des Plaines, Morton Grove, Niles, Skokie, Evanston, Elmhurst, Chicago (Wicker Park, West Loop, Lincoln Square, Lakeview, Old Town, Chinatown, South Loop), Oak Park, Oak Forest and Forest Park, Ill.

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