Florida Supreme Court Holds Wrongful Death Litigants Bound By Arbitration Agreement Signed By the Deceased

In essence, an arbitration agreement is a contract between two parties that stipulates that a neutral arbiter, rather than a judge or jury, will have the final binding decision over any claims that arise between the parties. Arbitration agreements have become the focus of some critical attention recently, because of the ultimate fact that sophisticated parties are requiring that less sophisticated parties waive their legal right to a trial in front of a judge. Oftentimes, these arbitration clauses are provided to the less sophisticated party on a “take it or leave it” basis, leaving them to either accept the clause or forego doing business with the requesting party.

On occasion, Florida courts have held that an arbitration agreement is not enforceable as a matter of law for a number of reasons. For instance, if the clause is considered by the court to be unconscionable, or to go against public policy, then a court can void an arbitration clause. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court had the opportunity to decide if an arbitration agreement entered into between a nursing home and its deceased resident also bound future litigants to arbitration in a wrongful death action.

Laizure v. Avante at Leesburg, Inc.

In a recent case in front of the Florida Supreme Court, Laizure v. Avante at Leesburg, Inc., the court was presented with the question of whether a nursing home patient’s agreement to arbitrate all claims against a nursing home bound that resident’s estate and heirs in any subsequent wrongful death action against the nursing home. The court held that it did.

The decedent entered into the care of a rehabilitative facility after he was released from surgery to assist in his recovery. However, after a few days of care in the facility, the man died. The man’s estate sued the nursing home based on the theory of negligence. At trial, the nursing home sought to dismiss the case in favor of arbitration, citing an agreement between the deceased resident and the nursing home. The man’s estate claimed that the agreement between the deceased patient and the nursing home did not bind the man’s estate.

The court held that the agreement did require the man’s estate to arbitrate all claims against the nursing home. First, the court noted that this type of claim “fell squarely within the language of the arbitration agreement.” The court then moved on to analyze whether the clause was enforceable, considering the following factors: “(1) whether a valid written agreement to arbitrate exists; (2) whether an arbitrable issue exists; and (3) whether the right to arbitration was waived.” Finding in favor of the nursing home, the court determined that the deceased patient’s estate was bound by the previously entered into agreement.

Are You Considering Bringing a Florida Personal Injury Action?

Don’t let the fact that the plaintiffs in this case were required to submit the case to arbitration deter you from filing a case in a Florida civil court. Each case is different and often turns on the very specific nature of the facts involved. To find out more about arbitration agreements and whether they are enforceable, contact an experienced Florida personal injury attorney. With an attorney’s assistance you may be able to get out from an unconscionable arbitration agreement and take the case to court. Click here, or call 352-387-8700 to set up a free initial consultation with a dedicated Florida personal injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Plaintiff Almost Loses Opportunity to Recover Based on Sloppy Filings, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 31, 2014.

Florida Court Corrects Arbitrator’s Error of Law in Recent Court of Appeals Case, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 31, 2014.

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