State Supreme Court Refuses to Enforce Arbitration Clause Against Young Injury Victim

An appellate court recently published an opinion affirming a lower district court’s ruling refusing to compel arbitration to address a personal injury claim alleging that actionable negligence caused a child to be injured at a trampoline park operated by the defendant. Both courts agreed that the clause within the liability release and waiver form that compelled any claims to be addressed through arbitration was a legally invalid contract of adhesion. Although the specifics of the plaintiffs’ claim have yet to be addressed by the court, the most recent ruling will prevent the plaintiffs from being forced to pursue compensation in arbitration, which is generally a more favorable forum for defendants.

The Plaintiffs’ Son Suffers a Serious Leg Injury, and the Defendant Seeks to Compel Arbitration

The plaintiffs in the case of Alicea v. Activelaf, LLC are the parents of a young boy who was injured in February 2015 while playing at a trampoline park that was operated by the defendant. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of the boy’s injuries, and they filed a personal injury claim in state court, seeking damages as compensation.

Before the boy was injured, his mother digitally signed a liability release and waiver with the defendant. As part of this waiver, the plaintiffs agreed that any legal claims against the defendant would not be brought in state or federal court and would be subject to mandatory arbitration. Arbitration is a private court-like proceeding that can be used to address several types of legal disputes. Technically, the parties in an arbitration accept the ruling of the arbiter as a binding settlement of their legal dispute.

Why Do Businesses Prefer Arbitration?

Arbitration clauses like the one signed preceding the Alicea case are commonly required or proposed by businesses when dealing with the general public. There are several reasons why businesses prefer arbitration to standard court proceedings. Arbitration is subject to simplified and expedited rules and procedures that prevent claims from being too complicated or time-consuming. The relaxed standards of arbitration tend to benefit the larger businesses that seek to compel it, both by reducing their potential legal expenses and by the nature of the proceedings themselves. As a general rule, the settlement or award from an arbitration will be less than if the claim were addressed through the courts, encouraging businesses to compel arbitration when they are able to do so.

Defendant’s Arbitration Clause is Found Unenforceable

After the plaintiffs’ son was injured, they filed a claim on his behalf in state court. The defendant responded by demanding the case be dismissed and the parties go to arbitration, as the plaintiffs had agreed to do by signing the liability release.

The plaintiffs disputed the validity of the arbitration clause in the liability release. The court found that the clause requiring arbitration could not be enforced because it was one of adhesion, meaning that the plaintiffs had no real choice but to waive their legal right to state court proceedings. The court reasoned that the interests of public policy would not be served by allowing the defendant or others in a similar position to compel arbitration without any negotiation or notification. As a result of the state supreme court’s ruling, the plaintiffs will be permitted to seek compensation for their son‘s injuries in state court, which — if successful — will most likely result in a larger settlement offer or award than if the proceedings were required to proceed through arbitration.

Contacting a Qualified South Florida Negligence Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident or by the negligent or intentional conduct of any public or private employee in the course of their duties, legal action may be appropriate to seek compensation for your loss. If it appears that arbitration is required for your claim, a skilled attorney may be able to have the arbitration clause deemed unenforceable. If arbitration is required, the assistance of a Florida arbitration attorney like those at Friedman, Rodman & Frank can increase the chances of success at your arbitration. The qualified South Florida personal injury and negligence attorneys at our firm have obtained substantial awards and settlements for our clients in arbitration, and we understand which strategies are the most likely to succeed, whether your claim is heard by a court or an arbitration panel. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with a South Florida injury attorney today. Contact us at 877-448-8585 or use the easy online form to get started.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Court Refuses to Impose Sanctions Against Pharmacy for Destruction of Evidence in Prescription Error Lawsuit, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 4, 2016.

Appellate Court Rejects $885,000 Verdict Against Educational Institution in Auto-Pedestrian Accident Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 19, 2016.

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