Arbitration Clause Doesn't Apply In Wrongful Death Case, IA High Court Rules

Iowa case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: wrongful death, arbitration.

Mary E. Roth and Michael A. Roth, individually and as coexecutors of the estate of Cletus Roth, Anna M. Roth, and Bradly E. Roth, v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, d/b/a Good Samaritan Society - George. IA wrongful death, arbitration

This was a wrongful death case in the federal court for the Northern District of Iowa, against a nursing home. The nursing home resident had agreed to arbitrate disputes, and the nursing home took the position that this agreement was binding on the plaintiff.

The District Court certified the following question to the Iowa Supreme Court:

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?

The supreme court held that it does not.

Even though the statute allows the loss of consortium claim to be filed by the personal representative of the estate, the court made clear that this claim belongs to the child. It noted that the wrongful death claim is an asset of the estate, and that the arbitration clause would be enforceable with regard to that claim.

Since the claims belonged to the children, who never agreed to arbitrate, the court held that the arbitration clause did not apply.

No. 15-2095 (Iowa Oct. 21, 2016).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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