Nursing Home Arbitration Agreement Enforced

In Marmet Health Care Center, Inc. v. Brown, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the West Virginia Supreme Court’s refusal to enforce a pre-dispute arbitration agreement governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) based upon a state public policy prohibiting arbitration of claims alleging personal injury or wrongful death against nursing homes. “When the state law prohibits outright the arbitration of a particular type of claim, the analysis is straightforward: The conflicting rule is displaced by the FAA.”
Mr. Brown brought a negligence lawsuit when a family member died while a patient of the elder care facility.
Brown’s contract with the facility required that all disputes (other than collection cases) be resolved through binding arbitration before the American Arbitration Association. The trial judge dismissed the case on the ground that Brown was bound by the agreement to arbitrate. When  Brown appealed, the W.Va. Supreme Court reversed and refused to enforce the arbitration agreement, finding “as a matter of public policy under West Virginia law, an arbitration clause in a nursing home admission agreement adopted prior to an occurrence of negligence that results in personal injury or wrongful death, shall not be enforced to compel arbitration of a dispute concerning negligence.”

The Federal Arbitration Act establishes a strong federal mandate in favor of enforcing and upholding arbitration agreements in employment and other types of disputes. “West Virginia‘s prohibition against pre-dispute agreements to arbitrate personal injury or wrongful death claims against nursing homes is a categorical rule prohibiting arbitration of a particular type of claim, and that rule is contrary to the terms and coverage of the FAA. [citations omitted].”

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