Illinois Appellate Court Reverses in Part and Remands Nursing Home Case as to Motion to Compel Arbitration

Clementine Leonard was a resident of Symphony Jackson Square LLC, which is a long-term care nursing facility. The facility is governed by the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. She was a resident from Feb. 27, 2016 through June 10, 2016.  Symphony was managed and operated by Maestro Consulting Services LLC.

On Feb. 7, 2019, Marilyn Herns, as the court-appointed guardian of Leonard’s estate, filed a lawsuit against Symphony Jackson Square, Maestro and Norwegian American Hospital Inc., which was not a party to this appeal.

The lawsuit alleged violations of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act and negligent mistreatment that led to multiple pressure sores as well as an allegation of common law negligence brought against Maestro. The defendants moved to compel arbitration based on a healthcare arbitration agreement that Herns signed along with the admissions paperwork when Leonard was admitted, and to dismiss based on the two-year statute of limitations as for negligence.

The trial judge denied both motions.  The defendants moved to appeal the denial of these motions under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 307(a)(1), which allows interlocutory appeals for orders granting refusing an injunction, such as to compel arbitration. The circuit court allowed this interlocutory appeal.

On appeal, Symphony and Maestro argued that the denial of the motion to compel arbitration was improper and that the denial of the motion to dismiss was also an error.

The appellate court considered the motion to compel arbitration first. While the healthcare arbitration agreement was signed by Herns, she lacked the authority to consent on Leonard’s behalf at the time, which Herns alleged rendered the arbitration agreement invalid.

The appeals panel emphasized that the circuit court’s denial recognized the existence of specific questions of fact:  Whether an agency relationship existed between Herns and Leonard and whether Herns had either actual or apparent authority to sign the healthcare arbitration agreement on behalf of Leonard.

The appellate court cited Section 2(a) of the Uniform Arbitration Act, holding that the proper course for the circuit court if there were unresolved issues relating to the healthcare arbitration agreement was to “render a substantive disposition of the issues raised by the motion to compel.”

The appeals panel found that questions of Herns’ status at the time the arbitration agreement was signed and whether the terms of the arbitration agreement were unconscionable should have been resolved by the circuit court in a summary proceeding before the court refused to mandate arbitration. The circuit court instead dismissed the motion, which was an error.The proper recourse being remand, sending the case back to the trial court for the required summary proceedings.

The appellate court then continued its opinion as to the denial of the motion to dismiss. Symphony had moved to dismiss, citing the two-year statute of limitations, and Herns had replied that the limitations period had been tolled because Leonard was under a legal disability. However, before reaching the merits of the motion to dismiss, the appellate court considered the question of jurisdiction. Rule 307(a)(1), under which the interlocutory decisions were appealed, applies to the decision of an injunctive nature, which either compel or refuse to compel a particular act.

The motion to compel arbitration was such an injunction, but a motion to dismiss is based on the statute of limitations is not. Instead, the issue should be preserved for appeal on completion of the trial court’s decision. The appellate court then held that the circuit court erred in certifying the denial of the motion to dismiss for appeal and dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction.

Accordingly, given these two issues, the appellate court reversed the issue on arbitration and remanded the case on the issue of the motion to dismiss.

Herns v. Symphony Jackson Square, LLC, et al., 2021 IL App (1st) 201064 (April 16, 2021).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling nursing home abuse lawsuits, nursing home bed sore cases, medical malpractice lawsuits, and nursing home negligence lawsuits for individuals, families and loved ones who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 45 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, Orland Park, Itasca, Lemont, Long Grove, Winnetka, Glenview, Northfield, Vernon Hills, Wheeling, Chicago (Ravenswood, Rogers Park, Englewood, Hegewisch, East Side, South Shore, Hyde Park, Bronzeville, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village), Rosemont, River Grove, South Barrington, Schaumburg and Schiller Park, Ill.

Robert D. Kreisman has been an active member of the Illinois and Missouri bars since 1976.

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