HARRISBURG – The Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas will once again hear proceedings in a negligence and wrongful death action against a Lancaster nursing care facility, after judiciary panels in both the Superior Court and Supreme Court of Pennsylvania entered rulings on the case.

On Dec. 21, the Superior Court ordered further proceedings in the professional liability action filed by Lorraine H. Davis (Executrix of the Estate of John L. Hudson) against Manor Care of Lancaster PA, HCR Manor Care, Inc., Manor Care Inc., HCR Healthcare and HCR Healthcare II, III, HCRMC Operations and Heartland Employment Services, remanded to the trial court.

Superior Court Judge Jack A. Panella authored the Court’s opinion in this case.

Davis first filed a complaint on July 22, 2014, in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas against the defendants containing claims under the Survivor Statute (42 Pa.C.S. Section 8302), the Wrongful Death Statute (42 Pa.C.S. Section 8301) and for punitive damages.

ManorCare filed preliminary objections, seeking to enforce an arbitration agreement it had with Hudson. On Feb. 19, 2015, the trial court denied ManorCare’s preliminary objections and refused to transfer the case to arbitration. ManorCare filed this timely, interlocutory appeal as of right.

“On appeal, ManorCare conceded that this panel was bound to affirm based upon Taylor v. Extendicare Health Facilities, Inc. However, they sought to preserve their argument regarding arbitration pending the outcome of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s decision in Taylor,” Panella said.

In that case, the Supreme Court found one of its own Rules of Civil Procedure was pre-empted by the Federal Arbitration Act. In Taylor, the patient had signed an arbitration agreement and under Pennsylvania law, the “survival claim” on her behalf had to be arbitrated – but her heirs’ wrongful death claims were not subject to arbitration. However, a rule of state civil procedure required that “survival actions be consolidated with wrongful death actions for trial.”

In November, the Supreme Court allowed the defendant’s appeal and vacated the prior order of the Superior Court – returning it to that same body for further proceedings.

Now, Panella said after reviewing the briefs of the parties and the record, the Superior Court agreed Taylor “controlled, and affirmed and dismissed ManorCare’s motion for summary affirmance as moot.”

In the instant case, the Superior Court decided to further remand the case to the trial court.

“The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania granted ManorCare allowance of appeal on this issue. Subsequently, the Supreme Court reversed Taylor. Defendant concedes that under these circumstances, ‘this matter should be remanded back to the trial court for arbitration-related discovery and further proceedings.’ Case remanded for further proceedings consistent with Taylor. Jurisdiction relinquished,” the Superior Court’s order read.

The plaintiff is represented by William P. Murray III of Wilkes & McHugh, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Sean P. O’Mahoney of Burns White, in West Conshohocken.

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania case 210 MAL 2016

Superior Court of Pennsylvania case 507 MDA 2015

Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas case CI-14-06658

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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