State law overrides federal law in arbitration case, court says

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently ruled that a federal arbitration law does not apply in a case involving the death of a nursing home resident.

The Oklahoma Nursing Home Care Act overrides the Federal Arbitration Act, the court said. Leola Bruner's next of kin alleged that Bruner died as a result of the negligent care at Grace Living Center in Edmond, according to court records. Upon admission to the nursing home, Bruner's daughter signed an agreement that any dispute would be decided by neutral binding arbitration. She also waived any right to trial in a court of law or equity.

The nursing home argued that the Federal Arbitration Act applied because the receipt of Medicare payments constituted interstate commerce. But the evidence in the case was insufficient to connect the nursing home admission contract with interstate commerce, the court ruled. Instead it sided with the state statute. The Oklahoma Nursing Home Care Act "is a clear rejection of arbitration agreements between nursing homes and their residents," the court found.

The court ruling is at http://www.oscn.net/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=448300 .

(Published on 12-19-06)