Petition seeks clarity on arbitration

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Nursing home company SSC Odin Operating Co. has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to again weigh in on arbitration agreements.

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in September that Sue Carter, the daughter of a deceased Odin resident, could bring a wrongful death suit despite arbitration agreements in place. Carter had signed those agreements as her mother's personal representative, but that did not prevent her from pursuing litigation on her own behalf, the court determined. Other state supreme courts have ruled differently in similar cases and are “sharply divided regarding arbitration of wrongful-death claims,” Odin asserted in its writ.

At issue is the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which Odin says is not being uniformly applied. In the Carter case, the Illinois State Supreme Court said “basic principles of contract law” outweigh the “FAA's policy favoring arbitration.” However, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the FAA should preempt state rules of law in wrongful death cases.

“The preemptive effect of the FAA in the wrongful-death context and the arbitrability of wrongful-death claims generally are issues that have divided courts throughout the United States, creating a patchwork of conflicting rulings in an area of law where a uniform federal rule is vitally important,” Odin stated in its filing.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously ruled on this issue in February 2012, when it overturned the West Virginia Supreme Court's ruling that nursing homes in the state could not use arbitration agreements to avoid wrongful death and personal injury litigation.