West Virginia high court sent back to the fine print drawing board

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Mar 02, 2012 in Nursing Home Injury or Death

The United States Supreme Court does not agree with a decision made by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals concerning nursing homes . Last summer, the state court ruled that nursing homes were not allowed to work fine print clauses into their contracts that would make it tougher for individuals to take them to court for things like negligence, personal injury or wrongful death.

Many nursing homes have presented residents with contracts that state if families of patients want to file a legal complaint against the institution, the case must go to arbitration instead of a judge or a jury.

While this might be a relatively new move for nursing homes, arbitration is a common practice in West Virginia and elsewhere. However, in its decision last summer, the state court decided that the Federal Arbitration Act applied to personal injury or wrongful death cases .

The U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the case and is asking the state court to reconsider. According to the nation's high court, nursing homes can conduct business in that fashion under the guidelines of the FAA. The West Virginia court had misinterpreted the act.

While the state court is being forced to reexamine the ruling, it has already used the decision as the basis of its ruling in another case. In November, the court decided unanimously that a housing company could not use similar fine print in order to avoid a lawsuit that claimed it built unsafe homes. That case has already been settled, but if the West Virginia Supreme Court goes back on its recent ruling for nursing homes, it would have to take another look at this case as well.

Source: Charleston Daily Mail, "U.S. Supreme Court smacks W.Va. over nursing home ruling," Ry Rivard, Feb. 21, 2012

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