The Pennsylvania Superior Court has once again written an opinion on the applicability of a nursing homes arbitration agreement in the context of Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Statute.
The case is Del Ciotto v. The Pennsylvania Hospital of the University of Penn Health System (Pa. Superior Dec. 27, 2017). As in all cases involving nursing home arbitration agreements, the specific details are vital in the ultimate outcome- in this case a favorable outcome for the plaintiff.
Rocco Del Ciotto was injured when an apartment roof fell on him. He was treated at Pennsylvania Hospital and subsequently transferred to Manor Care nursing home. During his stay at the nursing home Rocco Del Ciotto developed various ailments and problems that ultimately in part caused his death.
While Rocco was in the nursing home his physical and mental condition began to deteriorate. His son Nicholas signed an arbitration agreement on Rocco’s behalf. However, as usual the devil is in the details, as the Superior Court found that Nicholas did NOT sign the agreement in his individual capacity noting that the relevant signature line in the arbitration agreement was left blank.
What is the effect of the finding that Nicholas did not sign in his individual capacity? Very simply, that finding allows Nicholas Del Ciotto to continue pursuing a Wrongful Death claim against the nursing home in a trial court with a jury in a position to determine liability and damages. The arbitration agreement signed by Nicholas Del Ciotto on behalf of his father Rocco Del Ciotto is invalid as it pertains to a claim brought under the Wrongful Death Statute.
As long as nursing home arbitration agreements are valid and enforceable the need for finding exceptions and poking holes in their validity will go on. Perhaps in the future, these agreements, which violate the sanctity of the right to trial by jury, will be abolished.