GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader, No. 18-1779 (1st Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
In this case concerning arbitration agreements, nursing homes, and wrongful death claims under Massachusetts law, the First Circuit certified questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) under its Rule 1:03, holding that the dispute in this case turned on the characterization of wrongful death actions by the Commonwealth and presented an unresolved question of Massachusetts law whose answer was unclear.
The personal representative of a deceased former nursing home resident brought a state wrongful death action against a set of organizations that oversaw the nursing home (collectively, nursing home). The nursing home sued to compel arbitration. The federal court compelled arbitration and declined to issue a stay of the state wrongful death action. On appeal, the personal representative argued that she was not bound by the decedent’s agreement to arbitrate with the nursing home because her wrongful death right of recovery was independent of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. In asserting that the arbitration agreement was binding, the nursing home argued that Massachusetts beneficiaries’ wrongful death claims are derivative of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The First Circuit exercised its discretion in favor of certification, holding that Massachusetts law does not clearly decide the independent/derivative or other relevant questions about the status of wrongful death actions in relation to the decedent.