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SSC Odin Operating Co. v. Carter

After her mother died in the care of a nursing home in Illinois, Sue Carter sued the nursing home for wrongful death. The nursing home sought to compel arbitration on the basis of an arbitration agreement signed when her mother was admitted to the home. The Illinois Supreme Court held that the arbitration agreement could not be enforced with respect to the wrongful death claim, because, under Illinois law, that claim belongs to the heirs, not to the decedent and Carter had not contracted with the nursing home to arbitrate her own claims. In February 2013, the nursing home sought Supreme Court review, arguing that Illinois’s definition of wrongful death claims violates the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) by making it harder for a surviving heir to be bound by a deceased person’s contracts and therefore harder for companies to compel arbitration. Public Citizen worked with counsel for Carter to oppose the petition to the Supreme Court, arguing that state-law definitions of wrong death claims need not all be the same and that Illinois law does not violate the FAA because it does not single out arbitration for disfavored treatment. The Supreme Court denied the petition.