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Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Suit Headed to Arbitration

Tuesday, November, 8, 2016

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled survival claims brought as a result of a wrongful death lawsuit should be decided in arbitration. The suit relates to a claim against a nursing facility. The ruling is a result of Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities determined that survival claims can be determined in arbitration as the result of the Federal Arbitration Act, which preempts state rules.


According to legal experts, this ruling is part of a nationwide trend. More and more state courts are being forced to compel arbitration in cases that include existing arbitration agreements. One attorney stated the shift is a result of the federal system and US courts making an interpretation of a federal statute, which makes the issue binding across the country.


The recent ruling was the result of a suit filed against Extendicare by the family of Anna Marie Taylor, a women who died in an Extendicare facility in 2012. The suit claimed Extendicare was negligent in Taylor’s death. The court ruled in 2015 the suit could go forward, but Extendicare argued it be sent to arbitration, per the agreement signed by Taylor’s family with the nursing home. The case made it to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court through appeals, where it was determined arbitration would be appropriate.


Those in opposition to the ruling point out that, while arbitration can be excellent, it is not a public proceedings and it comes with its own unique challenges, including a limited right for further appeals. And since it’s private, arbitration removes the accountability found in litigation, which can be important when it comes to changing the behavior of an organization.