Nursing Home Resident Death Allowed to Proceed in State Court and Did Not Violate Arbitration Act

A Pennsylvania Superior court held that a trial judge did not violate the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) by refusing to split up a plaintiff’s wrongful death and survival claims arising out of the death of a nursing home resident. Margaret Tuomi was a resident at Kenric Manor, an assisted living facility. She developed contractures, pressure sores, a urinary tract infection, pneumonia, infection from a skin break and other medical issues. She was treated at a hospital. After she was transferred to Extendicare Health Facilities nursing home, she developed additional health problems from which she later died.

Tuomi’s husband and the administrator of her estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her beneficiaries and a survival action against Extendicare and Kendric Manor. Extendicare moved the trial court to compel arbitration under an arbitration agreement signed by Tuomi’s husband when she was admitted to Extendicare.

The trial judge held that Tuomi’s wrongful death beneficiaries, who were non-signatories to the arbitration agreement, could not be compelled to arbitrate. The trial judge also held that under Pennsylvania’s procedural law, the case brought as a wrongful death claim and survival action could be consolidated and in fact were required to be consolidated and remained together in court.

An appeal was taken in which Extendicare argued that the trial judge violated the Federal Arbitration Act by refusing to compel arbitration of the plaintiffs’ survival claims. The Pennsylvania trial court affirmed the trial judge’s decision holding that the FAA does not preempt state law. The court stated that the wrongful death statute and survival act claims should remain together to avoid inconsistent verdicts and duplicative damages and overlapping claims.

The appeals panel said Kenric Manor could be adversely impacted by bifurcation, dividing the two claims, whose damages are overlapping. Additionally, confidential documents and testimony presented at arbitration might not be available for use by Kenric Manor in a subsequent court proceeding making consolidation of the plaintiffs’ claims in court a better way to serve that parties interest.

In conclusion the appeals panel held that the wrongful death claims against Extendicare and Kenric Manor plus the survival claims against Kenric Manor would remain in the trial court for further disposition. The attorney representing the Tuomi family was Stephen Trzcinski.

Tuomi v. Extendicare, Inc., 2015 WL 3791409 (Pa. Super. Ct. June 18, 2015).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois nursing home abuse cases and medical negligence cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of a medical provider for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Calumet City, Blue Island, Crystal Lake, Barrington, South Holland, Worth, Richton Park, Alsip, New Lenox, Naperville, Joliet, Waukegan, St. Charles, Geneva, Wheaton, Chicago (Lincoln Square, Rogers Park, Hyde Park, Chinatown, Hegewisch), Lincolnshire, Wheeling, Winnetka and River Grove, Ill.

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