The Superior Court of Pennsylvania (“Pennsylvania Appellate Court”) stated in its non-precedential opinion filed on July 30, 2021 in a nursing home wrongful death case: “there is nothing in the record to indicate the POA Agreement was invalid … Frank thus had express authority to act on Decedent’s behalf under the POA Agreement, including the authority to agree to arbitrate legal claims the POA Agreement gave Frank the authority to “commence, prosecute, defend or settle claims and litigation” on behalf of Decedent. POA Agreement, 11/11/16, at ¶ 8. Pursuant to statute, a POA agent’s power to pursue claims and litigation includes the power to arbitrate. See 20 Pa.C.S.A. § 5603(s)(1) (“A power to ‘pursue claims and litigation’ shall mean that the agent may . . . [i]nstitute, prosecute, defend, abandon, arbitrate, compromise, settle or otherwise dispose of . . . any legal proceedings . . . regarding any claim relating to the principal[.]””
In Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc., 147 A.3d 490 (Pa. 2016), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that where there is a valid arbitration agreement between a decedent and a nursing home, survival claims must proceed to arbitration despite the existence of an accompanying wrongful death claim. The Supreme Court found the trial court erred in denying defendant/nursing home’s motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff’s survival claim where a valid arbitration agreement existed.
In the present case, upon the decedent’s admission to the appellants’ facility, her husband and power-of-attorney (POA), Frank Gollick (Frank), signed the arbitration agreement (Arbitration Agreement) on her behalf, which required that any disputes be resolved in arbitration. Gollick brought a wrongful death and survival action, asserting that the appellants and Rosewood of the Ohio Valley, LLC (Rosewood) were negligent in their care of the decedent, who was a patient at their respective nursing home facilities in October and November 2018. In sum, Gollick claimed the negligence of the appellants and Rosewood resulted in the decedent suffering a urinary tract infection, sepsis, and eventual death on November 27, 2018.
The Pennsylvania Appellate Court held in the case it was deciding: “We are persuaded by Appellants’ argument and conclude the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to enforce the Arbitration Agreement and permit Gollick’s survival claim to proceed to arbitration. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Taylor unequivocally held: “The only exception to a state’s obligation to enforce an arbitration agreement” is when a state contract law defense (such as unconscionability) is pled and proven. Taylor, 147 A.3d at 509. In this case, the trial court never made a finding that any state contract defense existed, nor did Gollick plead any such defense. Thus, pursuant to Taylor and its progeny, the trial court should have submitted Gollick’s survival claim to binding arbitration.”
Source Gollick v. Sycamore Creek Healthcare Group, Inc., d/b/a Caring Heights Community Care and Rehabilitation Center, J-A14031-21.
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