Brown v. Genesis Healthcare Corp.
In three cases consolidated for review, the facts were similar. A person was admitted to a nursing home, and a family member signed an admission agreement containing an arbitration clause. After the person died, a family member filed suit against the nursing home, alleging the nursing home negligently caused injuries leading to the person's death. The nursing home sought to dismiss the lawsuit and compel the family member to participate in binding arbitration. The family members asserted the arbitration clauses were unenforceable, alleging (1) the clauses violated the West Virginia Nursing Home Act, and (2) were unconscionable under the common law. After reviewing the relevant laws, the Supreme Court held that (1) the Nursing Home Act, which states any that waiver by a nursing home resident of his right to sue for injuries sustained in a nursing home shall be void as contrary to public policy, is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act; and (2) in the context of pre-injury nursing home admission agreements, where a personal injury or wrongful death occurred after the signing of the contract, arbitration clauses are unenforceable to compel arbitration of a dispute concerning negligence that results in a personal injury or wrongful death.