Court Finds in Favor of Florida Boat Accident Victim, Reversing Mandatory Arbitration

A Florida appellate court recently reviewed a woman’s appeal after a trial court compelled arbitration of her personal injury lawsuit. The case arose when she sought damages following injuries she suffered in a boat accident. She suffered injuries on the ladder of a boat she rented as part of her club membership with the defendant. In response, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint, and in the alternative, compel arbitration. The plaintiff filed a response, contending that the defendant waived its right to arbitrate by filing and participating in a limitation of liability action in federal court.

The record indicates that the defendant filed a complaint in federal court for exoneration based on several issues including the Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability Act. The complaint addressed the plaintiff’s claim, and the plaintiff answered by filing her lawsuit, raising affirmative defenses, and preserving her right to a jury trial. After that, the defendant objected to all of the plaintiff’s assertions and argued that her injuries resulted from her negligence moved to compel arbitration.

Under Florida law, waiver occurs when a party voluntarily and intentionally relinquishes a known right or conduct. Courts evaluating whether a party waived their right to arbitrate must look at the totality of the circumstances and whether the defaulting party acted inconsistently with their right to arbitrate. Florida courts have held that initiating a lawsuit without seeking arbitration amounts to an affirmative selection of a path that runs counter to the point of arbitration. Once a party waives their right to participate in arbitration, they may not reclaim their right without the other party’s consent.

Here, the appeals court found that the defendant waived their right to arbitration. First, the defendant’s federal lawsuit addressed the current matters at issue. Moreover, the defendants did not assert their right to arbitrate until the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in state court. The court reasoned that even if the defendant’s limitation of liability action did not constitute a waiver, the remaining facts amount to a waiver. In evaluating the totality of the circumstances, it is clear that the defendant’s pursued a course inconsistent with a desire to arbitrate. Therefore, the defendants waived their right, and the court reversed the lower court’s order compelling arbitration.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Boating Accident

If you or someone you love has been hurt because of the negligence of another person, business, company, or organization, contact the personal injury lawyers at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada. The Florida accident attorneys at our firm have extensive experience handling complex personal injury and wrongful death claims, including those arising out of Florida boating accidents and personal watercraft accidents. We have secured favorable outcomes for our clients in their claims stemming from Florida cruise ship accidents, construction accidents, dangerous and defective products, medical malpractice, motor vehicle accidents, and bad faith insurance claims. We have recovered significant sums of compensation on behalf of our clients. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our legal team.


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