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An Arizona skilled nursing facility won’t be allowed to use arbitration in a wrongful death lawsuit that stemmed from a wheelchair accident involving a resident, an appeals court ruled Tuesday. 

The signed agreement between Palm Valley Rehabilitation and Care Center, in Goodyear, AZ, and the resident’s son required arbitration to solve disagreements over medical services. 

Hospital, wheelchair

But according to the Arizona Court of Appeals, the pushing of a wheelchair doesn’t count as a “medical service” and doesn’t fit within the scope of the agreement — meaning the facility can’t compel arbitration to solve the dispute. Bloomberg Law first reported on the ruling.

Palm Valley’s representation told McKnight’s that although don’t agree with the court’s decision, it could be beneficial to the provider because it narrows the son’s claims as the case moves forward.

The resident’s son sued the facility for wrongful death, negligence and violating the Adult Protective Services Act following a wheelchair accident involving his mother in March 2016, court documents explained. 

A certified nursing assistant was pushing the wheelchair when his mother’s foot got tangled with a loose cord, causing her to fall head first onto the floor and breaking her neck. She later died from the injuries. 

Palm Valley had argued that the case is a medical malpractice lawsuit under Arizona’s Medical Malpractice Act. The court disagreed, saying the facility’s definition of medical malpractice in the arbitration clause was too narrow.

This story was updated Feb. 4 to include comment from Palm Valley’s representation.