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W.Va. Supreme Court rules against use of nursing home arbitration agreements in suits

July 5, 2011
by root
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In a unanimous decision, the West Virginia Supreme Court last week ruled that nursing homes can't use arbitration to avoid resident or family lawsuits over care, the Charleston Daily Mail reported.

The court’s opinion, written by Justice Menis Ketchum, said the Constitution “recognizes that factual disputes should be decided by juries of lay citizens rather than paid, professional fact finders who may be more interested in their fees than the disputes at hand.”

“The process of signing paperwork for medical care—specifically a contract for admission to a nursing home—is often fraught with urgency, confusion and stress,” Ketchum continued. “People seek medical care in a nursing home for long-term treatment to heal; they rarely view the admission process as an interstate commercial transaction with far-reaching legal consequences.”

The case appeared before the high court after several circuit courts dismissed suits from families against nursing homes because of the signed agreements.

Patrick Kelly, CEO of the West Virginia Health Association, said the ruling would increase nursing home costs, which would be passed on to residents and insurance companies, the Charleston Daily Mail reported.

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