High court partially reverses prior arbitration contract ruling

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Jun 22, 2012 in Nursing Home Information

We recently mentioned that the West Virginia Supreme Court had heard new arguments in the nursing home arbitration agreement case the Supreme Court of the United States had weighed in on earlier this year.

Last week, the state's high court issued its decision -- agreeing with SCOTUS that the Federal Arbitration Act does not contain an exception for personal injury and wrongful death actions, but otherwise reaffirming its previous nursing home arbitration agreement holdings from June 2011 in every respect.

The court remanded each of the three lawsuits that had been consolidated together on appeal back to the West Virginia district courts where they were originally heard "for the taking of evidence, the full development of a record, and proper consideration of whether the clauses are unconscionable" under common law contract principles.

The court's opinion, authored by Chief Justice Menis Ketchum, also expressed a continuing concern over nursing home arbitration agreements in general, noting that many of the agreements "are signed by a patient or family member in a tense and bewildering setting" -- and that in light of such circumstances -- it may be disingenuous for a nursing home to subsequently argue that a resident or family member "consciously, knowingly and deliberately accepted an arbitration clause in the contract" and understood that its purpose was to eliminate their access to the courts if the nursing home negligently injured or killed the patient."

There has been no word yet as to when these cases will be heard in their respective district courts.

In the meantime, if you are searching for a nursing home in West Virginia, either for yourself or a loved one, talk to an experienced nursing home negligence attorney about your legal rights and options before giving any consideration to signing an arbitration agreement.

Source: West Virginia Record, "W.Va. SC backs off previous ruling over nursing home contracts," Jessica M. Karmasek, June 14, 2012

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