Forbes article highlights real impact from “tort reform”

We have been concerned about so-called “tort reform” for a number of years. What that actually amounts to is “civil just infringements” which hurt ordinary people, to the benefit and the profit of big business.
We’re West Virginians — nothing new there I suppose. This article from the business friendly highlights all the bad things that tort reform has done and how we have all been sold a bill of goods. All of us need to keep an eye on our current Legislature to make sure more rights don’t get restricted under the guise of jobs growth and progress, because it’s not true!

Why Is the West Virginia Legislature Waging War on Seniors?

Senate Should Reject SB 493, Bill Allows State to Waive Constitutional Rights

Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Association for Justice urged the State Senate to reject a bill that denies senior citizens harmed in nursing homes that right to trial by jury.  SB 493 allows a medical power of attorney to waive the patient’s right to jury trial.  If there is no medical power of attorney, the State of West Virginia is allowed to waive that right on behalf of the patient.

“Why is the West Virginia Legislature waging a war on our state’s senior citizens?  Just this week it passed SB 6, which caps damages on injury claims and limits the ability to hold negligent nursing homes accountable in court.  Yesterday the Senate passed SB 421 that limits caps on punitive damage awards that ensure that these corporate interests cannot profit when reckless and intentional behavior harms or kills patients.  Now, there’s this bill that allows your constitutional rights to be signed away,” said Anthony Majestro, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.

“Medical power of attorney authorizes someone to make medical decisions for you, not legal ones and certainly not waiving your right to a jury trial if you’re injured.  These binding arbitration clauses are hidden in boilerplate contracts and other admission documents for nursing homes.  People sign them without even knowing the clauses are there because nursing homes aren’t required to disclose them.”

“What’s worse is that the proposal allows the state to step in and sign away your rights if you do not have a power of attorney.  The last thing the government should ever be allowed to do is sign away a citizen’s constitutional rights.  It’s outrageous that it’s even being considered.  No one would ever allow the state to sign away our 1st Amendment or 2nd Amendment rights, so every West Virginian should demand that the state not be allowed to sign away our 7th Amendment rights.”

Arbitration is a substitute for the right to go to Court.  In arbitration, an individual or panel of individuals decide the dispute instead of a judge or jury in a court of law.  While arbitration can be a useful tool if the parties have equal bargaining positions, it is an unfair process for nursing home patients who are in a far weaker economic position than the wealthy corporations that own the facilities…  Arbitration has several characteristics which make it harder for an individual to prevail in disputes against the business, including steep case filing fees and hourly rates for each arbitrator from $100 to $450 per hour as well as provisions that defeat legislatively-enacted consumer protection laws.  Deposits of $25,000 are a common requirement to bring a case.  Arbitration panels are also inherently biased against the patient, since the corporation typi cally uses the same arbitrators for all of its actions.  If the arbitrators want to keep receiving a check for services, they will not rule against the nursing home.


The West Virginia Association for Justice represents more than 500 plaintiffs’ attorneys throughout West Virginia and in surrounding states. WVAJ members are committed to preserving and improving our civil justice system in order to ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct and negligence of others can obtain justice in America’s courtrooms. WVAJ members work to protect West Virginia families by promoting safe workplaces, safe products, quality healthcare, a clean environment and corporate responsibility.


Hamstead, Williams & Shook: ‘Buckle Your Baby For Life’ program to be part of annual ‘Baby & Me Day’

Feb. 11, 2015

Since 2005, hundreds of north central West Virginia children have been able to travel safely as part of Hamstead, Williams & Shook’s “Buckle Your Baby For Life” program, a nonprofit organization that purchases and distributes car seats to needy families.

On March 7, representatives of the law firm will participate in “Baby & Me Day” from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport, Harrison County.  During that time, the organization will distribute prizes and provide information about services that can help families.

Buckle Your Baby for Life is run in conjunction with HAPI — “Helping Appalachian Parents and Infants” — a federally funded Healthy Start Project administered through the West Virginia University, School of Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

As part of the Buckle Your Baby For Life program, HAPI works with families to ensure car seat distribution through a fair, thorough screening process. To be eligible for a free car seat through the program, families must have exhausted other resources. Once approved, staff members at HAPI can help parents install the car seats properly if needed.

State and national statistics show that passengers who are not properly buckled-up are at a much greater risk of serious injury or death in a vehicle crash. The risk of serious injury is particularly significant for infants and young children. Additionally, West Virginia law requires that children under a certain age be properly secured in safety seat while riding in a passenger vehicle.

Families may be eligible for assistance with a child safety seat if they live in Monongalia, Marion, Preston, Taylor, Harrison, Upshur, Randolph or Barbour counties.

If you have a child in need of a car seat, cannot afford to buy one, and have explored all other options for obtaining a car seat, visit and click on the Buckle Your Baby For Life link for more information on eligibility requirements.

SB 6 Limits Ability to Hold Negligent Facilities Accountable, Risks Lives and Safety of West Virginians

Legislature Can Reduce Lawsuits by Improving Standard of Care

Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Association for Justice today urged the West Virginia Legislature to reject proposed SB 6.  Passage of bill would restrict the ability to hold negligent facilities accountable when West Virginians are seriously injured or killed.  Rather than reduce accountability for wrongdoers, legislature should instead focus on increasing the standard of care.

“If the West Virginia Legislature was to decrease the number of lawsuits against nursing homes and pharmacies, the answer is simple–focus on improving the standard of care so that legal action is not necessary.  This proposal does nothing to increase safety and minimize mistakes.  All it does it limit the ability of those hurt or killed to hold the negligent company accountable.  It’s wrong,” said Anthony Majestro, president of the West Virginia Association for Justice.

West Virginia nursing homes earned a D rating in 2014 from a national nursing home patients’ advocacy organization.  The rating is based on eight federal quality control measures.  (

“It is outrageous that the West Virginia Senate would pass legislation to limit accountability for nursing homes at a time when the number of severe deficiencies in our state facilities has doubled in just four years.  Our nursing home industry earned a D from a national nursing home patients’ advocacy organization.  This legislation does absolutely nothing to address the serious problems in our nursing home industry, while restricting our ability to hold negligent nursing homes accountable,” said Majestro.


According to Families for Better Care, federal data show that one in five West Virginia nursing homes has been cited for a severe deficiency.  The number of West Virginia facilities with severe deficiencies increased from 53 in 2011 to an estimated 111 in 2014.  Eighty percent of nursing homes had deficiencies.  State nursing homes ranked 46th nationally in direct-care staffing hours. (Nursing Home Compare, 2011 – 2014).

Estimated revenues for the long-term care industry total more than $200 billion per year.

Also hidden in SB 6 are damage caps for pharmacies, limiting their liability as well.  According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than 1.3 million people are injured every year due to medication mistakes caused by giving customers the wrong medication or dosage.  Only a fraction of these are even reported since all reports from pharmacies are voluntary.

Dr. Carmine Catizone with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy expressed concern over growing pharmacy errors.  NBC News reported, that “‘We’ve heard the complaints about the large chains and how they’re morphing or how they resemble fast food restaurants.’  His group represents government agencies in charge of ensuring pharmacy safety and said no one is keeping track of mistakes because large chains refuse to turn over the data.”

In West Virginia, pharmacies are encouraged to complete incident reports when errors occur, but these reports are voluntary.

“Again, the better solution is increased accountability, but instead of finding ways to reduce pharmacy errors, the Legislature is minimizing the pharmacies’ responsibility to those injured or killed due to their mistakes.  It’s wrong.”

These preventable adverse drug events (ADEs) cost the health care system $2 billion annually.  According to the 2014 – 2015 Economic Report on Retail, Mail and Specialty Pharmacies, prescription revenues exceeded $300 billion.  In 2013, nearly 37 million prescriptions were filled at retail pharmacies in West Virginia. (

The number of pharmacists in West Virginia is growing.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2,010 pharmacists in the state in 2010.  This total grew to 2,210 in 2013, the most recent year data is available.  This is an increase of 10 percent in just three years.  In 2013, West Virginia ranked first in the country for the number of pharmacists based on population. ( oes291051.htm)


The West Virginia Association for Justice represents more than 500 plaintiffs’ attorneys throughout West Virginia and in surrounding states. WVAJ members are committed to preserving and improving our civil justice system in order to ensure that any person who is injured by the misconduct and negligence of others can obtain justice in America’s courtrooms. WVAJ members work to protect West Virginia families by promoting safe workplaces, safe products, quality healthcare, a clean environment and corporate responsibility.

WVAJ Issues a Challenge to West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse:  Join Us in Statewide Public Forums on Our Civil Justice System

 Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Association for Justice today issued a formal challenge to West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse for the two organizations to hold a series of public forums on the state’s civil justice system.  WVAJ would work with CALA to schedule a minimum of five events throughout the state.  The challenge was sent to CALA this morning via email and certified mail.

“In recent years, there has been a lot of debate regarding our courts and our 7th amendment right to trial by jury.  Both sides have presented their evidence independently, but that’s not the most effective way to do this.  CALA should join WVAJ and present our information to the ultimate jury–the people of West Virginia.  Today, I issue a formal challenge to Roman Stauffer and West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse to join us for a series of public forums throughout our state,” said Beth White, executive director of the West Virginia Association for Justice.

The forums will be a “no spin” zone.

“There is a lot of misinformation and half-truths about our courts.  WVAJ does not deal in propaganda.  If CALA accepts our challenge, both sides need to stick to the facts.  Information should come from verifiable, third-party sources.  Let’s present the hard evidence to the people and let them decide.”

WVAJ also requires that the forums are open to any person who wants to attend as well as to the local media.  “In the past CALA has hosted ’roundtables,’ but these events were by invitation only and were not open to the public.  It’s far easier to tell the media that you have the local community on your side when you’ve pre-selected your audience and they agree with you already.  These events will be open to the public.”

WVAJ proposes that the forums be moderated by a local news reporter agreed upon by both organizations.  Earned and paid media for the events will also be approved by both groups.  Additional guidelines can be negotiated.

“I hope that CALA accepts our challenge and joins us.  West Virginians deserve accurate, comprehensive information about our civil justice system, business climate and how our courts protect our state residents and small businesses,” White said.

Related – Who is CALA?


This is an urgent call to action.  The proposed deliberate intent legislation is only one of the changes in the law that the new majority in the Legislature want to implement.  That particular statute, and the others that are under serious consideration, would make it very hard for the average person to even attempt to get full justice if they are injured due to another person’s fault.  I can assure that those of you who have been former clients would have been affected by the changes now under consideration.  If you care about the civil justice system in West Virginia, please contact your legislators and tell them not to tip the scales of justice against the men, women and children of our State.  “Vote ‘No’ to tort reform.”

Below is contact information for Delegates and Senators in Harrison, Monongalia, Marion, Preston, and Tucker Counties:


Delegate Tim Miley

(304) 340-3240

Delegate Danny Hamrick

(304) 340-3141

Delegate Patsy Trecost

(304) 340-3102

Delegate Terry Waxman

(304) 340-3171

Delegate Amy Summers

(304) 340-3139

Delegate Mike Caputo

(304) 340-3249

Delegate Tim Manchin

(304) 340-3331

Delegate Linda Longstreth

(304) 340-3124

Barbara Fleischauer

(304) 340-3127

Delegate Amanda Pasdon

(304) 340-3265

Delegate Cindy Frich

(304) 340-3125

Delegate Brian Kurcaba

(304) 340-3173

Delegate Joe Statler

(304) 340-3900

Randy Smith

(304) 340-3396

Larry Williams

(304) 340-3160


Senator Kent Leonhardt

(304) 357-7827

Senator Jeff Kessler

(304) 357-7902

Senator Mike Romano

(304) 357-7904

Senator Douglas Facemire

(304) 357-7845

Senator Bob Beach

(304) 357-7919

Senator Roman Prezioso

(304) 357-7961

Senator Dave Sypolt

(304) 357-7914

Senator Bob Williams

(304) 357-7995


Hamstead, Williams & Shook makes financial commitment to WVU College of Law’s expansion project

April 3, 2014

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Local law firm Hamstead, Williams & Shook PLLC has made a $25,000 commitment to the West Virginia University College of Law’s building expansion and renovation project.

Set to be completed in May, the expansion project includes a 30,000-square-foot addition which will house classrooms, a courtroom, event space, conference rooms, law clinics, and the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development. Interior renovations of existing space — which include the redesign of the George R. Farmer Jr. Law Library as well as updates that will enable the law center to meet LEED standards — will continue through 2016.

Attorneys at Hamstead, Willliams & Shook, headquartered in Morgantown, have been providing clients with legal services related to personal injury cases for more than 80 years. Attorney Jacques Williams earned his bachelor’s degree from WVU in 1975 and graduated from the College of Law in 1978. Attorney Alex Shook is also a WVU graduate, having earned his bachelor’s degree from the university in 1991, his master’s degree in 1993, and his J.D. from the College of Law in 1997.

”We are deeply appreciative of Alex and Jacques for demonstrating their support of the College of Law through this gift,” said Joyce McConnell, who serves as the William J. Maier Jr. Dean and a Thomas R. Goodwin Professor of Law. “Their contribution to the renovation and building project will not only result in an enhanced educational experience for students, but is also a meaningful endorsement of the College of Law from a successful firm in our community.”

Representatives said the firm is pleased to provide local support to a project that will ultimately advance the College of Law’s mission to prepare future generations of legal professionals.

The contribution from Hamstead, Williams & Shook PLLC is part of A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University, a $750 million fundraising effort the WVU Foundation is conducting on behalf of the University.

-WVU –

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter

Feb. 11, 2014

artisfoodIn an effort to give more people “a taste of Morgantown,” the law office of Hamstead Williams & Shook has contributed $10,000 to the Main Street Morgantown organization.

Main Street Morgantown Executive Director Terri Cutright said the “very generous donation” will be used for one of the community’s favorite events: Art Is Food.

Art Is Food is the outdoor dining experience before the Arts Walk, a self-guided evening for people to enjoy downtown and its artwork. The walk is now in its 13th year and is conducted in partnership with two art organizations.

“Restaurants do a sampling of their cuisines, which is the dining experience before people go on the Arts Walk,” Cutright said.

Art is Food is now in its third year at the Morgantown Market Place. The event will be held this year on Sept. 26, during West Virginia University’s Fall Family Weekend. Last year, about 400 diners took the opportunity to taste cuisines from about eight downtown and Wharf District restaurants.

Cutright and George Papandreas, president of the Main Street Morgantown board of directors, broached the idea of sponsoring the special event to Hamstead, Williams & Shook attorneys Jacques Williams and Alex Shook.

“(The law firm) has been a supporter of Main Street Morgantown ever since they got here. They’ve contributed from the beginning,” Cutright said, adding that when they discussed the Art Is Food event, “It was very well-received. (The attorneys) said this was a great community event and they definitely wanted to be associated with it.”

Cutright, who has been with the Main Street Morgantown organization for nearly 25 years, said the contribution from Hamstead, Williams & Shook will be put to good use to give the downtown area exposure.

“To be able to do an event like this, there are a lot of logistics: Cater the food, tables, chairs, dining amenities. There are a lot of components for an event with 400-500 people, and we’ll utilize some of the funds for promotion of the event,” she said. “It gives the restaurants extreme exposure to the people that attend. Some people have just not had the opportunity to go to a particular restaurant, so featuring their food at the event is just wonderful exposure.”

The cost of the Art Is Food event is $15 per person, and people can sample appetizers, entrées and desserts from each of the participating restaurants. With about 8-10 various types of eateries participating, Cutright said, “No one goes away hungry that evening. There’s plenty of food.”