Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal held in a recent case that a nursing home accused of violating a resident’s rights could not enforce an arbitration agreement because the agreement was incomplete.
After the decedent died of injuries she sustained while living in the nursing home, the plaintiff’s estate brought an action against the facility for a violation of the decedent’s rights. During the discovery process, the decedent’s estate requested a copy of an arbitration agreement she signed when she moved in. The nursing home produced the last page of the agreement, which contained the decedent’s signature, but it was unable to produce the first six pages of the agreement.
Before trial, the nursing home filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration agreement. In support of its motion, the nursing home introduced into evidence the last page of the agreement. Based on the limited language contained on that page, the nursing home argued that the decedent agreed to arbitration. The estate argued that the agreement was incomplete and therefore unenforceable. The trial court granted the nursing home’s motion.
To enforce an arbitration agreement, the party seeking enforcement must prove that:
- There is a valid arbitration agreement;
- An issue subject to arbitration exists; and
- The right to arbitration has not been waived.
The Second District held that the nursing home could not prove the first element because none of the terms of the agreement were known.
As arbitration agreements become more common, it is important for Floridians to understand their significance. In general, a person who was injured by a negligent nursing home has the right to file an injury lawsuit in Florida state court. If the plaintiff can prove a duty, the defendant’s breach, actual and proximate causation, and damages, he or she will be entitled to collect compensatory damages from the defendant.
However, if the resident signed a binding arbitration agreement, he or she may have waived his or her right to bring a lawsuit. Instead, the nursing home may be able to enforce the agreement and force the parties into arbitration. Depending on the terms of the agreement, the nursing home could have a significant advantage in arbitration, including the right to choose the arbitrators and dictate the procedure of the arbitration hearing.
The Southwest Florida injury attorneys at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano can help you if you or a family member was injured by a negligent nursing home in Cape Coral, Naples, Fort Myers, or beyond. We can handle all aspects of your case, even if you signed an arbitration agreement. If arbitration is required, many agreements allow the parties to be represented by counsel at the hearing. If not, we have significant experience taking negligent nursing homes to court. To schedule a free nursing home negligence case evaluation, call (800) 283-7442.