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A Look Back on 2017

Nicole Wilmet, December 27th, 2017

What a wonderful year 2017 has been! From court program evaluations and trainings to staff gatherings, we have had an exciting year and continued to make great strides in serving communities with court alternative dispute resolution!

One of the greatest highlights from this year was the launch of our new website, AboutRSI.org! The launch of our new site brought together our two previous sites CourtADR.org and AboutRSI.org to become a one-stop shop for all things ADR. Our updated Resource Center allows for quick and easy searches for court ADR resources in our Research Library, and provides summaries of Court ADR Across Illinois and Court ADR Across the US. Additionally, the launch of our new website also brought the release of our Guide to Program Success, a how-to guide on court ADR program design, management, and evaluation. We look forward to continuing to share and add new resources to our Resource Center in 2018!

This year, our staff continued to bring RSI’s expertise to communities across the U.S. Here in Illinois, our program coordinators ran successful Foreclosure Mediation programs in Lake, Winnebago, Boone, and Kane Counties. We also launched our Child Protection Mediation program in Kane County, addressing cases involving abuse and neglect. Outside of Illinois, our Executive Director Susan Yates and Kane County Mediation Programs Manager Kevin Malone traveled to San Francisco for the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution Conference! Additionally, this year, Susan traveled to Georgia and New Hampshire to lead a training for court ADR program administrators and provide training for state and federal court mediators and lawyers.

2017 was also a busy and exciting year for our Director of Research, Jennifer Shack, who spent the year engaged in several research and evaluation projects. This year, Jen lead an evaluation of Washington, D.C. Court’s child protection mediation program, an evaluation of a pilot program in Ohio that will use mediation for civil stalking cases, and an evaluation of the Supreme Court of Ohio Dispute Resolution Section’s The Right Track Project, a pilot program to address truancy problems. Want to have Jen help evaluate your court’s program in 2018? Click here to learn more!

Last but certainly not least, our Board members were also recognized for their work in ADR this year! In April, long-serving RSI Board member James J. Alfini was awarded the American Bar Association Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service to the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution!

As we finish this month we are thankful for a wonderful 2017 and are looking forward to 2018!

Happy New Year From All of Us Here at RSI!

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Mandatory Arbitration Clause in Nursing Home Dispute

Nicole Wilmet, July 5th, 2017

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a binding arbitration clause when it heard the case of Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership v. Clark. In Kindred, Beverly Wellner and Janis Clark, the wife and daughter of Joe Wellner and Olive Clark, each held power of attorney for their respective family members. When Joe and Olive moved into Kindred Nursing Centers L.P., Beverley and Janis completed all the necessary power of attorney paperwork on behalf of their family members. Included in this paperwork was a binding arbitration agreement whereby Beverly and Janis agreed, on their family member’s behalf, that any disputes arising out of their family member’s stay at the facility would be resolved through binding arbitration.

After Joe and Olive passed away, Beverley and Janis brought negligence suits against Kindred Nursing Centers L.P. alleging that Kindred’s substandard care caused their family member’s deaths. Kindred then moved to dismiss these cases and claimed that the binding arbitration agreements signed by Beverly and Janis prohibited these cases from being heard in court. Both the Kentucky trial court and appellate courts dismissed Kindred’s claims and found that Beverly and Janis could try their case in court. Following the appellate court’s decision, Kindred then appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court who affirmed the lower courts’ decisions and once again found that the families’ claims could be tried in court. As the Kentucky Supreme Court explained, the Kentucky Constitution protects an individual’s right to a jury trial. 478 S.W. 3d 306, 328-329 (2015). As such, the court found that the nursing home’s power of attorney agreement could not permit an individual with power of attorney to waive a jury trial and enter into a binding arbitration agreement without specifically saying so. Id. at 329. Following the court’s decision, Kindred then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 15th, in a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court determined that the lower courts in Kentucky violated the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) when they failed to give effect to the nursing home’s binding arbitration clause. As the court explained, under the FAA, courts are required to give arbitration agreements the same weight as all other contracts. (pg. 7) By failing to uphold the Kentucky nursing home’s arbitration clause, the Court found that the Kentucky courts failed to give the arbitration clause the same weight as other contracts. (pg. 8) As a result, the Court held that the nursing home’s clause was valid and enforceable.