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Kentucky Court of Appeals Refuses to Order Medical Malpractice Case to Arbitration

file0001362090004 morguefile wax115The Kentucky Court of Appeals has stated a medical malpractice lawsuit was not subject to arbitration. In Pikeville Medical Center, Inc. v. Bevins, an 85-year-old man was admitted to a Kentucky hospital with renal failure. Upon his arrival at the medical facility, the elderly man signed an agreement stating he would resolve any medical malpractice or other related disputes with the hospital through binding arbitration.

The man was apparently alert and awake when he entered the hospital. Three days after his admission, however, the elderly man reportedly fractured his neck when he fell from his hospital bed. As a result, the man underwent surgery and was discharged to a long-term care facility, where he died about one month later.

Following his death, the elderly man’s wife rescinded the arbitration agreement on behalf of the deceased man’s estate and filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital where he fell in Pike County Circuit Court. The hospital responded to the woman’s complaint by filing a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court held that the man did not have the capacity to enter into a complex agreement to arbitrate when he entered the medical facility. The Circuit Court also stated that a wrongful death beneficiary is not bound by an arbitration agreement. Because of this, the court denied the hospital’s motion and refused to compel the man’s estate to arbitrate its claims against the hospital. The facility then appealed the trial court’s decision to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

In the hospital’s appeal, it claimed that the trial court committed error when it refused to order the parties to arbitration. According to the medical facility, the lower court’s order was clearly in error, since it was not supported by either the law or the evidence offered in the case. The man’s wife countered that the arbitration agreement was rescinded in a timely fashion, and the estate’s wrongful death claim was not subject to arbitration.

After examining the facts of the case, the appellate court found that the deceased man lacked the capacity to enter into the arbitration agreement presented to him upon his admission to the hospital. The court added that an individual’s level of alertness for medical purposes is different than for “matters of legal concern.” Next, the Court of Appeals stated the evidence provided to the trial court supported its conclusion.

Since the elderly man lacked the capacity to enter into a contract at the time he was admitted to the hospital, the appellate court said it was not necessary to address whether the arbitration agreement was properly rescinded. The court also agreed with the Pike County Circuit Court’s holding that the wrongful death claims asserted against the hospital were not subject to the arbitration agreement. Finally, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order denying the hospital’s motion to compel arbitration.

If you or someone you love was injured by a Kentucky medical provider, you need an experienced personal injury attorney on your side. Call the caring medical malpractice lawyers at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP at (270) 781-6500 today or contact us online.

Additional Resources:

Pikeville Medical Center, Inc. v. Bevins, Ky: Court of Appeals 2014

More Blog Posts:

Who Can Bind a Plaintiff to a Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement in Kentucky?, December 2, 2014, Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys Blog

Federal Court in Bowling Green Refuses to Certify Question of Law to Kentucky Supreme Court in Tractor-Trailer Crash Case, November 25, 2014, Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys Blog

Photo Credit: wax115, MorgueFile