Monday, October 10, 2016

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Finds that Federal Arbitration Act Trumps State Rule on Bifurcation in Nursing Home Death Case

In the case of Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., No. 19 WAP 2015 (Pa. Sept. 28, 2016), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed a trial court's decision and the Superior Court's affirmance of the same, where the lower courts both ruled in favor of denying a nursing home's motion to bifurcate the wrongful death and survival actions in a case where the nursing home sought to compel arbitration of the survival claims pursuant to an arbitration agreement.

According to the Opinion, when the decedent entered the nursing home an alternative dispute resolution agreement was signed that called for the arbitration of matters arising regarding the decedent's stay at the facility.  Following the decedent's death, the Plaintiffs instead filed a wrongful death and survival action lawsuit.

The nursing home filed a motion to bifurcate the claims along with a motion to compel arbitration of the survival claims under the arbitration agreement.  The trial court denied the motion to bifurcate under Rule 213(b) and also held that it did not have the authority to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act.  The Superior Court affirmed.

With this latest decision in the matter, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed and held that the mandates of the Federal Arbitration Act, along with United States Supreme Court precedent, trumped the procedural mechanism found under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 213(b). The Majority reluctantly noted that the Federal Arbitration Act mandated that courts enforce arbitration clauses where appropriate.  As such, the decisions of the lower courts were reversed and the matter sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.

The Majority Opinion in Taylor written by Justice David Wecht can be read HERE.

The Concurring Opinion of Chief Justice Saylor, joined by Justice Baer, can be viewed HERE.

Justice Donohue's Dissenting Opinion can be viewed at this LINK.



For other Tort Talk posts on lower court cases on similar nursing home arbitration issues, click HERE

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