A Philadelphia nursing home settled a claim of wrongful death with the son of the deceased for $145,000, split between a wrongful death claim and a survival claim. Ola Simmons died from respiratory conditions, which the claim asserts was due to negligence demonstrated by the nursing facility. A settlement conference involving plaintiff John Simmons, the administrator of his mother’s estate, and Simpson House Inc., led to the resolution.
The motion to settle states that Ms. Simmons endured injuries, pain, and anguish, as well as significant healthcare-related costs. She was admitted to the facility in 2013 with conditions including senile psychosis and incontinence. Senile psychosis is a mental condition that occurs among older individuals caused by deteriorating cerebral function with symptoms including confusion and a reduced ability to communicate. While at the Simpson House she was alleged to have developed bed sores, had significant weight loss and various infections, which led to her transfer to Prime-Roxborough Hospital. Within several weeks, Simmons was moved to Kindred Hospital, where she died.
The plaintiff brought the suit in 2015 citing wrongful death, negligence and a violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices & Consumer Protection Act. District courts denied motions for dismissal from both Prime-Roxborough & Simpson House; the Prime-Roxborough matter has not been resolved. The claim states that Mr. Simmons suffered losses including comfort and companionship and faced expenses associated with the funeral and medical services. A claim was also brought against Kindred Hospital which raised an issue of whether the claim should be barred because of a signed arbitration agreement that existed.
Kindred believed the arbitration agreement warranted the case’s dismissal. Simmons and her legal representative had entered the agreement when admitted to Kindred, about a month before her death. The court was challenged with determining the validity of the contract and whether it was applicable. The court explained they must evaluate each claim on a case-by-case basis. The plaintiff felt the contract was not valid, yet that his claim for wrongful death would prevail regardless. The wrongful death claim sought compensation for the losses that resulted from the death. The other claim was a survival claim on behalf of the estate for recovery of losses that it incurred from the defendant’s actions.
State law allows for a claim of wrongful death brought by a representative of those people eligible to receive damages according to the statute. Two isolated actions may arise from one injury, one on the right to bring an action for the decedent and another for dependent (claimants). The court stated that the arbitration agreement did not personally bind Mr. Simmons.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that defendants who faced claims from separate plaintiffs based on the same incident must be heard separately and only one plaintiff is subject to the arbitration contract. The court dismissed the claims against Kindred that were relevant to arbitration; however, the wrongful death case continued as not subject to the agreement.
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