Federal judge sends nursing home's libel lawsuit against law firm back to state court

A U.S. District Court judge recently sent a lawsuit between a Mississippi law firm and an Ohio nursing home back to state court after determining the law firm failed to show sufficient evidence that the amount of alleged damages warranted the matter being in federal court.

Judge Walter H. Rice told attorneys for McHugh Fuller Law Group PLLC that its “evidence” taken from local newspapers and websites showing the average per-person cost of long-term care at an Ohio nursing home and the annual per-person cost of rooms in Central Ohio nursing homes did not meet the so-called “amount in controversy” for federal diversity jurisdiction.

Heartland of Urbana, Ohio LLC sued the law firm, alleging deceptive trade practices and libel after the firm placed advertisements accusing it of having been cited for failing to meet residents' needs.

Bloomberg News reported that this is the fourth time in two months that the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has remanded an action based on advertisements in which a law firm sought to solicit business through newspaper ads and website postings announcing that a nursing home had been cited for licensing violations. In each case, the facility alleged that the ads were misleading because they didn't disclose that the licensing violations hadn't caused harm to any patient or that the alleged deficiencies had been corrected.