Nursing home operator petitions Supreme Court to rule on arbitration in wrongful death cases

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The U.S. Supreme Court may again weigh in on arbitration agreements in nursing homes.

Nursing home company SSC Odin Operating Co. recently filed a writ of certiorari asking the nation's highest court to resolve a question on the matter. 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 that were in place. Carter had signed those agreements as her mother's personal representative, but that did not preclude her from pursuing litigation on her own behalf, the court determined. However, 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 a federal statute, the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which Odin says is not being correctly applied by courts over arbitration agreements. The U.S. Supreme Court itself ruled in Feb. 2012 that the West Virginia Supreme Court was “incorrect and inconsistent with clear instruction” in its interpretation of the FAA.

“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.

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