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Illinois Personal Injury & Criminal Defense / Blog / Personal Injury / Appellate Court Rules Plaintiff Not Bound by Arbitration Agreement in Nursing Home Wrongful Death

Appellate Court Rules Plaintiff Not Bound by Arbitration Agreement in Nursing Home Wrongful Death


An Illinois appellate court recently overturned a decision handed down by a lower court that compelled an Illinois plaintiff into arbitration with a nursing home. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff’s mother was admitted to the defendant’s nursing facility in September 2019. As her mother’s power of attorney, the plaintiff signed documents that included an arbitration agreement in the event that her mother was injured or killed. Such arbitration agreements are not uncommon. Nursing homes want to do everything in their power to avoid a case being brought before a jury. In many cases, they force residents and their family members to sign arbitration agreements that compel the case to be heard by an arbitrator. The nursing home is likely to secure a better outcome with an arbitrator than they are a jury.

Initially, the lower court ruled that the arbitration agreement was binding. The plaintiff filed her case in court, but the court dismissed the case and remanded it for arbitration. On appeal, however, the court ruled that the daughter’s signature on her mother’s behalf did not constitute her own consent to the arbitration agreement.

The court admitted that the plaintiff had indeed signed the arbitration agreement, but she did so only in a representative capacity for her mother. The court ruled that the defendant and the decedent never had an existing arbitration agreement in place.

Nursing homes are scared of this decision 

Prior to this decision, several courts have sided with nursing home providers in terms of arbitration clauses. In these rulings, the court found that rights waived by residents in arbitration agreements are also waived by the resident’s relatives. The decision will likely prompt Illinois nursing homes to exercise more caution when drafting agreements. The aforementioned case will signal problems for any nursing home facing similar allegations.

The decision may make it impossible for any nursing home to compel arbitration in a wrongful death lawsuit. No one files a wrongful death lawsuit on their own behalf. These suits are filed by personal representatives of the decedent. Ensuring an arbitration clause in that case is, thus, very tricky. The nursing home would be required to get every possible next of kin to sign the arbitration agreement in order to make it enforceable under the aforementioned ruling.

Meanwhile, the decision gives plaintiffs a roadmap for avoiding arbitration clauses in wrongful death lawsuits. For plaintiffs, getting their case heard by a jury is often the best path to justice. Arbitrators tend to be more conservative when it comes to awarding damages. Juries are often swayed by emotion and can be very generous when it comes to compensating sympathetic plaintiffs.

Talk to a Decatur, IL Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Today 

Patel Law, PC represents the interests of plaintiffs in lawsuits filed against nursing homes. If you have lost a loved one or yourself been injured due to negligent nursing care, call our Decatur personal injury lawyers right away to schedule a free consultation, and learn more about how we can help.



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