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West Virginia Supreme Court Takes Issue with Federal Arbitration Act

Monday, July, 11, 2011


The Federal Arbitration Act has been criticized by the West Virginia Supreme Court in three separate cases this month.  According to the majority opinion in the last of these cases, "Congress did not intend for arbitration agreements, adopted prior to an occurrence of negligence that results in a personal injury or wrongful death, and which require questions about the negligence be submitted to arbitration, to be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act."

 

The court went on to assert that the Constitution of the United States requires that issues of fact be decided by juries composed of ordinary citizens and that forced arbitration clauses erase a basic constitutional right.  Nor was the decision composed solely of dry legal language; the justices took direct aim at the Supreme Court of the United States, calling into question their legal reasoning used in recent cases that were decided in favor of arbitration clauses.

 

Federal Arbitration Act also Under Fire by Legislature

 

The West Virginia legislature has previously considered a bill that would prohibit forced arbitration clauses from appearing in some types of contracts including agreements to enroll in nursing homes.  The bill has been shelved for several sessions but with debates concerning arbitration picking up steam, some residents of the state are demanding it be made active again.

 

The state high court's decision did not impact divorce arbitration and many other uses of alternative dispute resolution.