Earlier this month, the Arkansas Court of Appeals issued a written opinion that will be of interest to any putative personal injury plaintiff who signed an arbitration agreement. In the case, Rita v. Gruber, the court held that, although the selected forum mentioned in the arbitration agreement contained in a nursing home admission contract was unavailable, the fact that the parties had agreed to arbitrate means that the plaintiff’s claim must proceed through arbitration.
The Facts of the Case
In 2009, the plaintiff helped her father find housing with the defendant nursing home. The plaintiff had power of attorney for her father, and prior to his admission into the defendant nursing home, the plaintiff signed an admission contract. Contained in the contract was a clause agreeing to submit any future claims to arbitration through the National Arbitration Forum (NAF).
In October 2013, the plaintiff’s father died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. In turn, the plaintiff filed medical malpractice and negligence claims against the nursing home. By this time, the NAF was no longer available to take consumer arbitration cases because the NAF was found to have violated several consumer-protection laws when arbitrating claims and another state had suspended the NAF’s ability to take on new cases.
The defendant nursing home asked the trial court to dismiss the case pursuant to the arbitration clause, and require the plaintiff to submit her claim to arbitration. The plaintiff’s position was that the NAF was no longer available as a forum, and therefore she should be permitted to file the case in a court of law. The trial court agreed with the plaintiff, and the defendant nursing home appealed.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals Reverses, Requiring the Plaintiff to Submit Her Claim to Arbitration
On appeal, the court agreed with the defendant. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff had signed an arbitration clause evidencing her consent to settle any future claims through arbitration. The fact that the venue specified in the contract was not available did not excuse the plaintiff’s obligation to proceed through arbitration. Thus, as a result of the court’s decision, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed and she will have to proceed through arbitration.
Some Courts Favor Arbitration Clauses, Which Can Hurt a Plaintiff’s Case
As the case discussed above shows, sometimes courts will side with corporations who seek to compel arbitration. Arbitration is generally not a favorable forum for personal injury plaintiffs because the specific forum named in the contract is hand-picked by the very company that is being sued. Personal injury plaintiffs may be able to avoid arbitration if there is a defect in the contract, the arbitration clause, or for other valid reasons. Anyone interested in bringing a personal injury lawsuit should discuss their case with a dedicated Arkansas attorney to determine their rights and responsibilities.
Have You Been Injured in an Arkansas Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Arkansas accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Even if you have previously agreed to arbitrate any future claims, you may be able to avoid that burden under certain circumstances. To learn more, contact the Pfeifer Law Firm at 501-374-4440 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney. Calling is free and most cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.
See More Posts:
13 Fatalities Reported in a USA Holiday Tour Bus Crash in California, Arkansas Injury Lawyer Blog, November 4, 2016.
Do Driverless Cars Decrease Car Accidents?, Arkansas Injury Lawyer Blog, July 13, 2016.