Extendicare resident's arbitration agreements should stand, jury concludes

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Arbitration agreements signed by a resident of an Extendicare facility are valid, a jury in Kentucky determined Friday.

The suit involves Nora Chapple, a woman who had two stints at an Extendicare facility prior to her death at age 80. Each time she was admitted to the Extendicare-operated Kenwood Health and Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, in June and August 2011, she signed a voluntary arbitration agreement barring her and her family from seeking a jury trial related to aspects of her care.

Following Chapple's death, her son brought wrongful death charges against Extendicare, arguing that his mother's state of mind was not sufficiently clear to know what she was signing when presented with the arbitration agreements.

A three-day trial took place last week in Madison County, which featured testimony from Chapple's physician, the administrator of Kenwood and other medical experts, according to local newspaper the Richmond Register.

The jury decided in Extendicare's favor after a two-hour deliberation, the Register reported. The jurors rejected the notion that the agreements should be discarded because Chapple signed them while heavily medicated for broken hips, suffering from depression, and without family members present.

The plaintiff's attorney said no decision had been reached regarding an appeal, according to the Register. There are 14 pending cases in Madison Circuit Court regarding the quality of care at Kenwood, the newspaper noted.

Extendicare has leased all 21 of its Kentucky nursing homes to a third-party operator, citing the state's “litigation environment.”  

The provider is "not surprised" by the jury's decision, Extendicare Vice President and General Counsel David Keating told McKnight's.

"We admit and provide care for residents whether they choose to sign the Alternative Dispute Resolution agreement or not," he said. "Signing these agreements can lead to more expeditious resolutions and we remain focused on providing quality care and services to our residents."

Arbitration agreements in long-term care are a source of controversy, and courts have issued conflicting rulings regarding their enforcement. 

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