WV Supreme Court justice under scrutiny for potential conflict of interest in $40 million HCR ManorCare case
Questions are swirling around the recent $40 million HCR ManorCare settlement in West Virginia, following an ABC News investigation into potentially improper ties between the plaintiffs' attorney and one of the justices who ruled in the case.
Lawyer Michael Fuller represented the family of Dorothy Douglas, whose death in a ManorCare facility in 2009 led to a $90 million verdict against the provider. The case then went before the state supreme court, at which point Fuller and people associated with him began contributing substantial funds to the re-election campaign of Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis, according to ABC.
The campaign contributions might raise eyebrows but are within the bounds of the law, ABC reported. However, Fuller also purchased a private jet from Davis' husband while the case was ongoing, raising further red flags, according to Tuesday's Nightline report. Davis said the sale was handled by a broker and she did not know who the purchaser was.
Additional details are needed, such as the sale price of the plane, a legal expert told ABC. If the plane was sold above market value, it would add weight to the argument that Davis had an ethical obligation to disclose the sale and/or recuse herself from the case.
The Supreme Court ultimately reduced the award but did not cap it at $500,000, which was one possible outcome due to West Virginia law. Fuller's firm received a $17 million share, and Davis wrote the majority opinion, ABC noted.