Did you recent lose a loved due to suspected Philadelphia nursing home abuse or negligence?
If so, you might find it instructive to read about a consolidated opinion handed down last week by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The decision nicely demonstrates how higher level courts can powerfully influence lower level courts.
The case has many layers, so we’ll walk through the details in a straightforward fashion.
The decision concerned three separate lawsuits — each one pertained to a nursing home abuse/negligence tragedy. In each case, a family member had lost a parent or other loved one in an area nursing home due to negligence.
The nursing homes in question forced the plaintiffs to participate in arbitration, thanks to specific clauses in the homes’ admissions contracts. These agreements compelled the plaintiffs to arbitrate disputes – not to sue over them.
Based on these agreements, the defendant nursing homes asked the courts to dismiss the plaintiffs’ cases and send them to arbitration, instead. A County Circuit Court in Kanawha, West Virginia dismissed two of the suits on these grounds. A County Circuit Court in Harrison, West Virginia refused to weigh in and instead asked the West Virginia Supreme Court to step in.
In light of the confusion, last June, the WV Supreme Court took up the cases. The Court agreed that arbitration could be a useful way of managing disputes… but found that West Virginia’s Nursing Home Act, which disallowed nursing home arbitration clauses in certain contracts, was pre-emptive under the Federal Arbitration Act.
The defendants obviously did not like this ruling! They appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in February and reversed the WV Court’s opinion. Last week, based on the SCOTUS ruling, the West Virginia Supreme Court sent the suits back down to the Circuit Courts.
Chief Justice Menis Ketchum nevertheless voiced frustration: “many contracts… for admission [in nursing homes] are signed by a patient or family member in a tense and bewildering setting…it may be disingenuous for a nursing home to later assert that the patient or family member consciously…accepted an arbitration clause [and understood that it was] intended to eliminate their access to the courts, if the nursing home negligently injured or killed the patient.”
This complicated and nuanced case demonstrates that even family members and patients who have been aggrieved may be limited in terms of options for justice and compensation.
To that end, if you or someone you love needs help with a potential Pennsylvania nursing home abuse or negligence case, look to the team here at Rosenbaum & Associates for experienced, compassionate legal guidance.
Get a free consultation today by connecting with us online or via phone.