State of West Virginia ex rel. AMFM, LLC v. Honorable Charles E. King

On September 7, 2009, Ms. Wyatt’s physician determined her to be indefinitely incapacitated and incapable of making her own medical decisions; therefore, Ms. Wyatt’s physician selected Ms. Wyatt’s daughter, Ms. Belcher, to serve as her health care surrogate. At the end of the “Checklist for Surrogate Selection” completed by Ms. Wyatt’s physician, Ms. Belcher consented to the “Acceptance of Surrogate Selection” portion of the document, which stated “I accept the appointment as surrogate for Beulah Wyatt and understand I have the authority to make all medical decisions for Beulah Wyatt.”

Thereafter, on September 10, 2009, Ms. Wyatt was admitted to McDowell Nursing to receive nursing home care. During the course of the admissions process, Ms. Belcher completed and signed numerous documents, including a “Resident and Facility Arbitration Agreement” (hereinafter “Arbitration Agreement”), which required that “any legal dispute, controversy, demand or claim . . . that arises out of or relates to the Resident Admission Agreement or any service or health care provided by the Facility [McDowell Nursing] to the Resident [Ms. Wyatt] shall be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration.” The Arbitration Agreement further provided that “THE PARTIES UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT BY ENTERING THIS ARBITRATION AGREEMENT THEY ARE GIVING UP AND WAIVING THEIR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO HAVE ANY CLAIM DECIDED IN A COURT OF LAW BEFORE A JUDGE AND A JURY.” (Emphasis in original). Finally, the Arbitration Agreement indicated that acquiescence thereto was not a precondition of Ms. Wyatt’s admission to McDowell Nursing or her receipt of services therefrom and that she could rescind the Arbitration Agreement within thirty days of its signing. For the next ten months, Ms. Wyatt resided at McDowell Nursing. During the course of her residency there, she allegedly sustained pressure sores, infections, dehydration, malnutrition, and other injuries which the respondent herein, Lelia Gresham Baker (hereinafter “Ms. Baker”), another of Ms. Wyatt’s daughters and the personal representative of her estate, claims contributed to Ms. Wyatt’s death on July 31, 2010.

On December 1, 2011, Ms. Baker filed a wrongful death suit against McDowell Nursing alleging, among other things, that its negligent care of Ms. Wyatt caused and/or contributed to her death. McDowell Nursing then filed a motion to dismiss the suit and to enforce the Arbitration Agreement that was signed by Ms. Belcher upon Ms. Wyatt’s admission to its facility. By order entered March 28, 2012, the circuit court denied McDowell Nursing’s motion and concluded that the subject Arbitration Agreement was unenforceable.