Court blocks resident's estate from appealing SNF arbitration ruling

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The estate of a deceased nursing home resident can't appeal a previous court's decision that required them to arbitrate their dispute with the nursing home where she died, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

The estate of resident Marilyn Hopkins sued Preferred Care Partners following her death in one of the operator's Kentucky facilities. Preferred Care then requested that a judge enforce the arbitration agreement included in Hopkins' admissions contract; the judge ruled in favor of the provider, stopping litigation of Hopkins' estate's case until arbitration was complete. Her estate appealed the ruling.

Citing the Federal Arbitration Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that it was forbidden from hearing appeals in arbitration cases, unless the underlying lawsuit was dismissed as well. In Hopkins' case the lower court compelled arbitration of the dispute, halted the federal case until arbitration was completed and stopped Hopkins' estate from proceeding against Preferred in state court — but it did not dismiss the underlying lawsuit.

Since the estate's federal case was stayed until arbitration was complete, the appeals court cannot review the challenge to the arbitration ruling and must dismiss it, the court wrote.