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Roth v. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

May 14, 2019

MARY E. ROTH, Individually and as Co-Executor of the Estate of Cletus Roth; MICHAEL A ROTH, Individually and as Co-Executor of the Estate of Cletus Roth; ANNA M ROTH; BRADLEY E ROTH, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN GOOD SAMARITAN SOCIETY, d/b/a GOOD SAMARITAN SOCIETY- GEORGE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          C.J. Williams United States District Judge.

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY ......................................... 3

         A. Proceedings in this Court and Arbitration ...................................... 3

         B. Certified Questions ................................................................. 4

         C. Second Arbitration Agreement .................................................... 6

         II. FEDERAL ARBITRATION ACT ....................................................... 7

         A. Applicable Law ...................................................................... 7

         B. Discussion ............................................................................ 8

         III. ISSUE PRECLUSION ..................................................................... 11

         IV. PROCEDURAL POSTURE .............................................................. 21

         V. CONCLUSION ............................................................................. 23

         This matter is before the Court on the parties' Stipulation for Order Confirming Arbitration Decision and Directing Entry of Judgment Thereon (Doc. 46), and on defendant's Motion Requesting Court to Execute Proposed Order Confirming Arbitration Decision and Directing Entry of Judgment Thereon, in Accordance with the Parties' Stipulation (Doc. 49). As explained more fully infra, the parties jointly submitted a proposed order confirming an arbitration decision, and the parties request that the Court enter that proposed order. (See Docs. 46, 46-3). Although the parties interpret the proposed order differently, both parties now request that the Court enter the proposed order. The Court declines to do so because the proposed order is not clear as to which parties would be subject to final judgment under the order.

         The parties have also requested that the Court determine whether the individual plaintiffs' loss of parental consortium claims survive the arbitrator's decision, or whether the arbitrator's decision has a fatally preclusive effect on the individual plaintiffs' claims. The Court finds it appropriate to resolve this issue. The parties submitted briefs on the issue (Docs. 52-54), the Court held a hearing on the issue, and defendant submitted a supplemental brief on the issue, with leave of Court (Doc. 58). Although permitted to do so, plaintiff declined to submit a supplemental brief on the issue. (See Doc. 59).

         For the following reasons, the parties' Stipulation for Order Confirming Arbitration Decision and Directing Entry of Judgment Thereon (Doc. 46) is granted to the extent the pleading seeks entry of judgment on Counts I, II, III, and V, denied to the extent the pleading seeks entry of judgment as to Count IV, and denied to the extent the pleading seeks entry of the parties' proposed order (Doc. 46-3). Defendant's individually filed Motion Requesting Court to Execute Proposed Order Confirming Arbitration Decision and Directing Entry of Judgment Thereon, in Accordance with the Parties' Stipulation (Doc. 49) is denied as moot to the extent the pleading seeks entry of judgment on Counts I, II, III, and V, and denied to the remaining extent the pleading constitutes a motion. Summary judgment is rendered in favor of defendant as to Count IV. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment in defendant's favor as to all counts.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. Proceedings in this Court and Arbitration

         Defendant is a long-term care facility that “provided nursing home care and memory care services for Cletus Roth from November 27, 2013[, ] through February 27, 2014.” (Doc. 30, at 2). Around the time Cletus Roth (“Cletus”) was admitted to defendant's facility, Cletus' son, Michael Roth, signed an “Admission Agreement” on Cletus' behalf.[1] (See Doc. 46-2, at 1-16). The Admission Agreement contained an arbitration provision providing as follows: “Any legal controversy, dispute, disagreement or claim of any kind arising out of or related to this Admission Agreement, or the breach thereof, or, related to the care of [sic] stay at the Facility, shall be settled exclusively by binding arbitration . . ..” (Id., at 14). The arbitration provision also specified that the Federal Arbitration Act, Title 9, United States Code, Section 1, et. seq., was to govern the arbitration provision and “all proceedings relating to the arbitration of any claim.” (Id., at 15).

         Cletus ultimately died, and Cletus' children commenced this action, contending that defendant was responsible for Cletus' death. Mary E. Roth and Michael A. Roth, in their capacities as co-executors of Cletus' Estate brought claims for wrongful death, breach of contract, dependent adult abuse, and punitive damages. (Doc. 3). Mary and Michael Roth, along with their siblings Anna M. Roth and Bradley E. Roth, each brought a claim for loss of parental consortium. (Id.).

         Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration (Doc. 6), and this Court granted that motion “as to the plaintiff [E]state's claims.” Roth v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Soc'y, 147 F.Supp.3d 806, 814 (N.D. Iowa 2015) (emphasis omitted). The Court did not compel arbitration as to the individual plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims and, instead, certified two questions to the Iowa Supreme Court regarding the arbitrability of the individual plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims. Id. at 814-15. This Court permitted the parties to “decide for themselves whether to proceed immediately to arbitration of [the Estate's claims] or to await answers to the questions certified . . . before doing so.” Id. at 814. The parties chose to await the Iowa Supreme Court's opinion before proceeding to arbitration. Ultimately, the arbitrator found that defendant did not act negligently and that judgment should enter in favor of defendant as to those claims that were submitted to the arbitrator. (See Doc. 46-1).

         B. Certified Questions

         The Iowa Supreme Court answered only one of the certified questions: Does Iowa Code Section 613.15 require that adult children's loss-of-parental-consortium claims be arbitrated when the deceased parent's estate's claims are otherwise subject to arbitration? Roth v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Soc'y, 886 N.W.2d 601, 603 (Iowa 2016). In answering the question, the Iowa Supreme Court turned to the facts of this case directly and held that the individual plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims were not subject to arbitration. Id. at 613. Moreover, the Iowa Supreme Court held that although “loss-of-consortium claims . . . could be subject to arbitration, a decedent's arbitration agreement alone is an insufficient basis for this outcome.” Id. (emphasis in original).

         In reaching this holding, the Iowa Supreme Court explained that under Iowa law, a loss of parental consortium claim belongs to the child of the decedent but should be brought by the personal representative of the decedent's estate. Id. at 606-07 (“In the case of a parent's death, the child's claim for loss of parental consortium should be brought by the decedent's administrator under [Iowa Code S]ection 613.15.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)); id. (“The cause of action for parental consortium is to be commenced by . . . the parent's estate although the ownership of the proceeds [is] in the child.” (alterations in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)).

         The Iowa Supreme Court went on to recognize multiple exceptions to the rule that the personal representative of a decedent's estate is the statutory plaintiff empowered to bring loss of consortium claims. Id. at 607-08. One exception is when the child of a decedent establishes “that it is impossible, impracticable or not in the child's best interest for the [statutory plaintiff] to maintain the action.” Id. at 607 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). The court also noted “that the rights of adult children to manage and control their own affairs requires that where disagreement arises over who shall control the course of the litigation, this circumstance alone should permit an adult child to maintain a claim under [S]ection 613.15 in the child's own name.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In short, the Iowa Supreme Court concluded that under Iowa law, 1) the personal representative of a decedent estate will often be the proper plaintiff by whom a loss of parental consortium claim should be brought; 2) a loss of parental consortium claim is not subject to arbitration simply because the decedent estate's claims would be subject to arbitration; and 3) the individual plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims in this case were not subject to arbitration under the Admission Agreement.

         C. Second Arbitration Agreement

         After the Iowa Supreme Court issued its decision, counsel for the parties entered into a separate “Agreement for Binding Arbitration.” (Doc. 46-2, at 17-21). Plaintiffs are all represented by the same attorneys. One of those attorneys signed the “Agreement for Binding Arbitration” on behalf of “Claimant.” (See id., at 21). The agreement states that “Claimant” refers to “Estate of Roth.” (Id., at 19). Defendant has abandoned its argument that the individual plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims were subject to arbitration based on the Admission Agreement. Defendant now argues that the second agreement, the “Agreement for Binding Arbitration, ” encompassed all claims that the Estate had standing to pursue, including the loss of consortium claims. (See Doc. 53, at 8 (“The Estate had a full and fair opportunity to present all claims that it had standing to pursue, including the adult children's loss of consortium claims, had it chosen to.” (emphasis in original)). Defendant thus reasons that counsel's signature on behalf of “Estate of Roth” was made on behalf of the Estate, in its own capacity, and on behalf of the individual plaintiffs.

         Based on defendant's argument that the loss of consortium claims were included in the “Agreement for Binding Arbitration, ” defendant asserts that the Federal Arbitration Act entitles defendant to judgment in its favor on all claims, including the loss of consortium claims. (Id., at 9). Alternatively, defendant argues that the arbitrator's finding that defendant “properly cared for [Cletus]” (Doc. 46-1, at 5-6), should be given preclusive effect as to the individual plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims. (Doc. 53, at 10-12).

         Plaintiffs do not contest that this Court should enter judgment in favor of defendant on the claims that have been brought on behalf of the Estate. Plaintiffs' only challenge is with respect to the loss of consortium claims. Plaintiffs assert that the arbitrator had jurisdiction over only the Estate's claims-not the individual plaintiffs' claims-and that the arbitrator's decision should have no effect on the individual plaintiffs' claims. (Doc. 54, at 1-2). Additionally, plaintiffs assert that under Iowa law, ...


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