Illinois Court of Appeal Allows Nursing Home Wrongful Death Case to Proceed Based on Expert Witness Affidavit Regarding Mental Capacity

A common issue that arises in claims involving nursing homes and other care facilities is whether an arbitration agreement is enforceable. As Chicago nursing home negligence lawyers, we have seen firsthand how an arbitration agreement’s applicability can cause serious confusion and headaches for a family who has endured the loss of their loved one due to a facility’s negligence. At Therman Law Offices, we are prepared to help you determine whether you are entitled to compensation and explore the best route for asserting your rights against the nursing home that is responsible for the harm.

Recently, the Illinois Court of Appeal decided a case involving a dispute regarding an arbitration agreement and its enforceability. A woman died while in the care of a nursing home facility, and her estate brought a claim against the facility, claiming negligence and wrongful death. The defendants responded to the action by filing a motion to compel arbitration and seeking dismissal of the civil claim.

The lower court initially granted the motion but later granted the estate’s motion to reconsider. It also allowed the estate to file an affidavit from a doctor, stating that the decedent would probably not have understood the arbitration agreement that she was required to sign upon admittance to the facility. The affidavit suggested that the decedent was under the influence of certain medications that would have made it difficult for her to understand what was happening, due to the side effects that they caused. The defendants appealed.

On review, the appellate court concluded that the lower court did not abuse its power by granting the motion to reconsider and allowing submission of the affidavit into evidence. It rejected the defendant’s argument that the affidavit was filed late, and it was unable to find any evidence in the record that the lower court abused its discretion in allowing the submission of the affidavit beyond the deadline to offer additional evidence.

The court also rejected the argument that the expert’s affidavit should be rejected on the basis that the doctor did not actually examine the decedent and therefore lacked personal knowledge of the situation. The court pointed to longstanding rules stating that an expert can opine on an individual’s mental condition even if he or she did not interview or examine the person. The affidavit was based on medical records and expert knowledge of the side effects that the medications likely caused. As a result, the affidavit was reliable and created an issue regarding whether the decedent had sufficient mental capacity to understand the scope and intent of the arbitration agreement.

If you or someone whom you love was injured or lost his or her life in a nursing home abuse incident, you may be entitled to compensation. Our seasoned team of personal injury lawyers will help you review your case and determine whether you can pursue legal action against the persons or entities responsible for the injury. We offer a free consultation, so call us at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.

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