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Florida Arbitration Agreement Disputes in Personal Injury Cases

Mediation and arbitration are commonly used forms of alternative dispute resolution in Florida. While many use these terms interchangeably, there is a critical distinction between mediation and arbitration. During mediation, the mediator assists the parties in communicating to reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement. In contrast, during arbitration, an arbitrator listens to the parties’ evidence and arguments before ultimately deciding the outcome of the dispute.

On its face, arbitration seems less adversarial and serious than formal legal proceedings; however, in reality, binding arbitration agreements can seriously affect a person’s compensation claims. A long history of case law indicates that Florida courts tend to favor arbitration agreements, even when the agreements are silent regarding the procedures to be followed. As such, it is crucial that those subject to arbitration agreements contact an attorney for representation.

For instance, a Florida appeals court recently reversed a trial court’s ruling and found that a valid agreement to arbitrate existed in a plaintiff’s claim that a massage therapist sexually assaulted her. The case arose when the woman visited a Florida Massage Envy. Following her appointment, the woman filed a multi-count complaint against several entities, including Massage Envy and her massage therapist. Massage Envy filed a motion to compel arbitration in response to the complaint. The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff and concluded that no valid agreement to arbitrate existed.

At issue on appeal was whether the plaintiff agreed to the Terms of Use Agreement, (“TOU”) which included a binding arbitration provision. The appeals court found that the format and language of the agreement sufficiently described and referenced the TOU in a way that the parties’ intent to agree. The court reasoned that there is uncontroverted evidence that the plaintiff completed the forms and clicked the box agreeing to arbitrate.

The court explained that Florida courts must apply the ordinary principles of contract formation to resolving these types of agreements-to-arbitrate disputes. Further, regarding online or electronic contracts, there are two types of agreements: browsewrap and clickwrap. Browsewrap refers to situations when a website provides a link to the terms and conditions but does not require the user to click an acknowledgment. In contrast, clickwrap agreements occur when a website directs the user to the terms and conditions and requires the user to click an acknowledgment box. Here, the agreement was a clickwrap agreement, and thus plaintiff was placed on conspicuous notice of the binding provision. The plaintiff’s failure to read the terms does not impact whether the provision was binding.

Legal Help with Florida Arbitration Disputes

As the above case illustrates, Florida courts have a history of relentlessly enforcing arbitration agreements. If you or someone you know needs assistance handling a Florida personal injury or wrongful death case involving arbitration, contact Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada. The experienced attorneys on our team have extensive experience successfully recovering compensation on behalf of injury victims. In addition to Florida, arbitration disputes, our firm handles personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice claims. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.

 

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