Illinois Appellate Court Issues Decision Discussing When Civil Action can be Stayed in Nursing Home Neglect Case Involving Arbitration

One of the most tragic types of personal injury cases that we see involves nursing home abuse. Individuals trust these facilities to provide around-the-clock care for elderly individuals during the final years of their lives. Unfortunately, many staff members and facility administrators choose to undermine our state’s clear rules against Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect. If you or a loved one suffered harm in a nursing home, call us today to learn more about your potential rights.

Recently, the Illinois appellate court considered a claim involving a surviving husband who brought several claims against the nursing home where his wife was a resident. The decedent suffered from left-side paralysis following a stroke as well as degenerative joint disease and other conditions. She was marked as a fall risk and suffered two falls during her residency at the facility. One of these falls resulted in a goose-egg sized hematoma on her forehead in addition to other injuries. She was admitted to a hospital for treatment and later discharged. Less than a  month later, she passed away.

The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the facility was negligent in providing care for his late wife, including preventing her from falling, and that as a result of this negligence the decedent lost her life. The facility moved to dismiss the claim and sought to compel mandatory arbitration in the alternative, pursuant to the resident agreement that the decedent signed as part of her admittance. The plaintiff amended the complaint to include a wrongful death claim following his wife’s passing.

The lower court dismissed the survival claims in the action and compelled the parties to arbitration. The plaintiff appealed, but the reviewing panel of judges upheld the lower court’s decision. The plaintiff filed a petition seeking redress with the Illinois Supreme Court.

In the interim, the plaintiff pursued discovery in the wrongful death action attempting to take the plaintiff’s videotaped deposition due to his age and health. The defendant ignored the discovery request and objected to the deposition. The defendants moved to stay the wrongful death proceedings pending the outcome of the arbitration, but the lower court denied the defendant’s motion, finding that because the wrongful death claim is not subject to arbitration a stay was not appropriate. The insurer appealed.

The appellate court first noted the unique nature of the appeal in which the two survival claims that were subject to arbitration and the wrongful death claim that was ordered to proceed are all based on an identical set of facts. Reviewing the applicable rules regarding when an action can be stayed, the appellate court determined that the lower court should have granted the defendant’s motion to stay the wrongful death proceeding. The language states that any action involving an issue that is subject to arbitration must be stayed if the order for arbitration or an application for arbitration has been made. If an issue is severable from the other issues involved, then a stay may be granted regarding that issue alone.

Reviewing the survival actions and the issues in the wrongful death claim, the appellate court concluded that a stay must be granted regarding the issue of negligence in the wrongful death claim but that the issues of proximate cause and damages were severable from the claims pending in arbitration. The appellate court noted that on remand the lower court may wish to allow discovery to proceed regarding the issues of proximate cause and damages in light of the plaintiff’s advanced age.

If you recently lost a loved one due to a nursing home’s abuse or neglect, you may be entitled to compensation. No amount of money can restore you and your family after this magnitude of loss but it can help you cope with the resulting financial stress. To schedule a consultation with our seasoned team of Chicago nursing home abuse legal professionals, call us at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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