The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Three (“California Appellate Court”) held in its unpublished opinion dated April 29, 2020, “although defendant [nursing home] moved to compel both plaintiffs to arbitrate all of their claims, including their wrongful death claims, it appealed only that portion of the court’s order denying arbitration of Craig’s wrongful death claim. Consequently, the portion of the order denying the motion to compel arbitration of Therese’s wrongful death claim is final, and her wrongful death claim will be litigated in the superior court. It follows that Craig’s wrongful death claim must be litigated in the superior court as well, because the wrongful death claims may not be split and tried in separate forums.”
“Under the procedural circumstances of this case, whether the language of the Arbitration Agreement was intended to bind all plaintiffs to arbitrate their wrongful death claims is of no import. Likewise, the mutual intent of the parties at the time the Arbitration Agreement was executed is irrelevant. Nor does it matter whether Craig stands in the shoes of William. And the general principal that an arbitration agreement complying with Code of Civil Procedure section 1295 binds nonsignatory heirs to arbitrate wrongful death claims does not apply here.”
The Underlying Facts
Therese Nida (Therese) and Craig Nida (Craig) sued Chapman Care Center (defendant) for various claims including wrongful death, based on alleged wrongful conduct leading to the death of William Nida (William).
At the time William was admitted to the defendant’s facility, Craig signed a two-page arbitration agreement (Arbitration Agreement) between the defendant and William as William’s “Legal Representative/Agent.” The Arbitration Agreement provided the substance and procedures of the Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. § 1) would apply.
Craig signed the Arbitration Agreement as William’s “Legal Representative/Agent.” Craig signed again, confirming that he was authorized to sign and signing on behalf of William, and that he was agreeing any claims brought in his personal capacity would be subject to arbitration pursuant to the Arbitration Agreement.
After the plaintiffs filed the California nursing home wrongful death complaint, the defendant petitioned to compel arbitration of all of the plaintiffs’ claims, including their wrongful death claims. The trial court denied the defendant’s petition, finding that the defendant failed to show a written arbitration agreement between the defendant and any of the plaintiffs, specifically finding neither William nor Therese were parties. The trial court also found that the defendant failed to provide evidence William agreed to have Craig sign the Arbitration Agreement on his behalf, and that the defendant did not show an arbitration agreement existed with Craig because there was no evidence of consideration inducing Craig’s promise to arbitrate.
The California Appellate Court stated, “given the finality of the portion of the order denying arbitration of Therese’s claims, which defendant fails to discuss, there is no basis for us to compel her to arbitrate her wrongful death claim, notwithstanding the strong public policy favoring arbitration. The portion of the order denying the motion to compel arbitration of Therese’s wrongful death claim is not properly before us.”
Source Nida v. Chapman Care Center, G057211.
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