PISANO v. EXTENDICARE HOMES Superior Court Decision Stands: A Victory for families of persons who passed away in Nursing Homes

In Pisano v. Extendicare Homes, Vincent Pisano allegedly died as a result of the care or lack of care he received at the nursing home he was staying in. When Vincent first arrived to the nursing home, his daughter, legally acting on his behalf, more or less signed a contract agreeing that all legal matters arising from Vincent’s stay would be confined to arbitration and not a trial. Such terms in a contract are regularly used, and the people signing them are seldom aware that they are giving up their right to a trial. While it is unfortunate that claims on behalf of Vincent had to be settled through arbitration, the Superior Court found that Vincent’s family still had a right for trial because of their Wrongful Death Action.

Oftentimes, when tragedy strikes and a loved one perishes as a result of another’s careless acts, negligence or unlawful violence, the family of the deceased will seek damages provided under Wrongful Death and Survival Action statutes. Damages under a Survival Action relate particularly to the Deceased. Generally, compensation will be rendered under this cause of action as a result of the terrible pain and suffering the Deceased incurred before his or her ultimate demise. However, damages under a Wrongful Death Action are for the losses suffered by the Deceased’s family (spouse, children, parent or personal representative). This cause of action provides more than just recovery for funeral and medical expenses, but also allows recovery for the loss of a loved one’s support, comfort and services (including financial support the deceased would have otherwise provided). While the two claims are usually intertwined in a lawsuit, the Court in Pisano also believed each action is distinct and separate of another.

Because Vincent agreed that his claims would be confined to arbitration, his family had no right to assert on Vincent’s behalf a Survival Action to recover damages for Vincent’s pain and suffering. However, because Vincent had no power to restrict the rights of his family, the court in Pisano found that Vincent’s family could still seek compensation for the loss of Vincent under the Wrongful Death statute. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently decided not to hear the Nursing Home’s appeal, which allowed the Superior Court’s ruling to stand. Now, not only will Vincent’s family have the opportunity to have Vincent’s story told in a public trial, but families in similar situations will also have that same opportunity.

The Trial Lawyers at Villari, Lentz and Lynam have a history of successfully getting binding arbitration agreements declared null and void, ensuring victims their right to a jury trial.

REFERENCES:

42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8302 (Pennsylvania Survival Action Statute)

42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8301 (Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Statute)

PISANO v. EXTENDICARE HOMES, 1185 WDA 2012 (Pa. Super. Aug. 12, 2013)

PISANO v. EXTENDICARE HOMES, 62 WM 2013 (Pa. December 24, 2013)

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