Illinois Appellate Court affirms Circuit Court’s ruling to compel arbitration of negligence claims against defendant rehabilitation facility

On July 23, 2018, the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, affirmed the Circuit Court of Cook County’s ruling granting a rehabilitation facility defendant’s Motion to Compel Arbitration of negligence claims brought against it.

This case arises out of an alleged injury suffered by the plaintiff while a patient of the defendant rehabilitation facility, Symphony of Lincoln Park, LLC (“Symphony”). Symphony filed a Motion to Compel, arguing that a valid arbitration agreement existed between the parties requiring the plaintiff to arbitrate claims of negligence. The Circuit Court granted Symphony’s motion.

The plaintiff appealed, claiming that arbitration agreement designated “Imperial Grove Pavilion” as the facility such that the defendant was not a party to the arbitration agreement. The evidence adduced demonstrated that:

  • the defendant, Symphony of Lincoln Park, LLC, was the facility’s licensee at the time the plaintiff signed the arbitration agreement;
  • the plaintiff signed an admission contract and arbitration agreement on the same date;
  • in two sections of the admission contract which were initialed by the plaintiff, “Symphony of Lincoln Park” was handwritten as the “facility”;
  • the arbitration agreement defined “facility” to include “the particular facility where the Resident resides, its parents, affiliates, and subsidiary companies, owners, officers, directors, medical directors, employees, successors, assigns, agents, attorney and insurers”; and
  • six days after the plaintiff signed the admission contract and arbitration agreement, the facility announced it was changing its operating name from Imperial Grove Pavilion to Symphony of Lincoln Park, and the facility signage, awnings, name tags, contracts, and marketing materials “were updated to reflect the name Symphony.”

Considering the foregoing evidence, in particular, the arbitration agreement’s broad definition of “facility,” as well as the fact that there was no effort to hide that “facility” included Symphony of Lincoln Park, the Appellate Court determined that the Circuit Court did not err in finding Symphony to be a party to the agreement.

The plaintiff further argued that the arbitration agreement was not binding because he signed the agreement under duress. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed he did not have a choice about signing the arbitration agreement because it was the defendant’s requirement that he sign the agreement to be admitted. The Appellate Court determined there was no evidence of duress where the arbitration agreement itself stated that the patient is not required to sign the agreement to receive treatment; and the plaintiff did not allege that any threats were made or that he protested signing the agreement.

The Kero case is encouraging in that it demonstrates that the Illinois Appellate Court is willing to enforce valid arbitration agreements; and provides guidance for long term care facilities in drafting these agreements.

To obtain a copy of the Kero v. Palacios, et al., 2018 IL App (1st) 172427 (July 23, 2018) opinion, you may contact Anne Nelson by telephone (312-673-7810) or email (anne.nelson@arandpartners.com).