Arbitration clauses ruled valid in nursing home negligence cases

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Feb 22, 2012 in Nursing Home Injury or Death

Unfortunately, nursing home injury and abuse cases keep becoming more prevalent in West Virginia and the rest of the United States. Personal injury lawsuits against negligent nursing homes are one way to seek justice and help keep elderly residents safe.

However, some nursing homes attempt to force residents and their families to sign arbitration agreements that waive their rights to file suit should their loved one be injured, mistreated or killed while in the nursing home's care.

It is very important that nursing home residents and their families avoid these arbitration agreements whenever possible because they compromise the family's right to pursue justice against a negligent nursing home or offender employed by a nursing home.

This is especially true in the wake of a recent United States Supreme Court ruling that considered the validity of arbitration agreements signed by nursing home patients.

The case involved three West Virginia nursing home patients, now deceased, who had allegedly been victims of nursing home negligence . The families of the victims tried to pursue personal injury lawsuits against the nursing homes, but the arbitration agreements stood in the way.

The highest court's decision overturned a West Virginia state Supreme Court decision holding that state law would not enforce arbitration agreements in personal injury or wrongful death cases against nursing homes.

The United States Supreme Court held that the West Virginia Supreme Court could not create a rule invalidating arbitration agreements in personal injury or wrongful death claims against nursing homes because the rule is in violation of the Federal Arbitration Act.

However, it is still possible that the arbitration agreements signed by the three plaintiffs in the case could be invalidated because the West Virginia court also found them to be "unconscionable." The case was remanded back to the lower court, which was instructed to reconsider the validity of the arbitration agreements devoid of the "the invalid, categor­ical rule" it created.

Source: Courthouse News, "W.Va Ignored High Court on Arbitration Clauses," Barbara Leonard, Feb. 21, 2012

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