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WV Supreme Court Chief Justice Apologizes For Release Of Wrong Version Of Court Opinion

Reported by: Send eMail Jeff Morris
Reported: Jun. 18, 2014 4:08 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 19, 2014 11:08 AM EDT
MGN Online/Wiki Commons Photo
MGN Online/Wiki Commons Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis issued an apology Wednesday after the wrong version of the court’s opinion was released in a Charleston nursing home case.

The ruling by the Supreme Court deals with a judgment of $11.5 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages that were awarded to one family who filed suit against several corporate entities that operate Heartland Nursing Home.

The suit was filed by the estate of Dorothy Douglas, an 87-year-old resident of the nursing home, after her death.

The defendants had fought the case in circuit court, but their legal efforts were denied and the case ended up before the state Supreme Court.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, the court vacated $6.5 million of the award and offered the estate the option of accepting more than $48 million, which would reduce the punitive damages to about $31.9 million, or have a new trial on punitive damages only. The estate has 30 days to request a new trial.

Davis apologized in a letter after the wrong version of the opinion in the case, Manor Care Inc., et al. v. Tom Douglas, was inadvertently released.

“We do our best to guard against the inappropriate release of early drafts of opinions and decisions that are written as we deliberate among ourselves, and I am pleased that the track record of our court in this regard is very good,” Davis said. “I frankly can’t remember the last time this happened. However, it did happen earlier today. Although we caught the mistake within a matter of a few hours of the unauthorized draft’s release, in today’s immediate media world, a few hours is an eternity.

“So I want to apologize to the litigants and the lawyers in this case and to all of the people of West Virginia for this error. I also want to apologize to the reporters who cover our court who strive to report the contents of our opinions accurately, because I know this mistake makes their jobs more difficult. I especially want to apologize to my colleagues on the Supreme Court for this very unfortunate mistake, which I deeply regret.”

To see the corrected opinion, visit here.




The West Virginia Supreme Court has vacated part of the award in a multimillion judgment against the operators of a Charleston nursing home and offered the plaintiff the option of accepting reduced punitive damages or having a new trial on punitive damages only.

The ruling by the Supreme Court deals with a judgment of $11.5 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages that were awarded to one family who filed suit against several corporate entities that operate Heartland Nursing Home.

The suit was filed by the estate of Dorothy Douglas, an 87-year-old resident of the nursing home, after her death.

The defendants had fought the case in circuit court, but their legal efforts were denied and the case ended up before the state Supreme Court.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, the court vacated $6.5 million of the award and offered the estate the option of accepting more than $48 million, which would reduce the punitive damages to about $31.9 million, or have a new trial on punitive damages only. The estate has 30 days to request a new trial.



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