Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Cites Florida Supreme Court in Deeming Arbitration Agreement Void

In the recent case of Klemish v. Villacastin, the plaintiffs, a married couple, appealed an order from the lower court that compelled arbitration of their medical malpractice claims against the defendant, a hospital corporation. The Fifth District Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s order finding that the arbitration provision between the parties was void and therefore unenforceable.

The facts of the case are as follows. One of the plaintiffs, the wife of the couple, was admitted to one of the defendant’s hospital locations for therapeutic treatments and care following a surgical procedure. At the time she was admitted, she signed a form labeled “ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION AGREEMENT AND AMENDMENT TO ADMISSION AGREEMENT.” There were a number of provisions in this agreement, but the most relevant included a provision waiving the plaintiff’s right to trial regarding any dispute falling within the agreement. Instead, the plaintiff’s sole recourse was either mediation or arbitration.

Another relevant provision was entitled Pre-Request Procedures. It stated that the parties must comply with certain pre-suit and pre-notification requirements, as provided by Florida law, before filing a request to pursue the arbitration or mediation of a dispute.

Shortly after she was admitted to the hospital, the plaintiff alleged that she suffered numerous injuries resulting from the defendant’s improper and negligent medical care. In her lawsuit, she named the medical facility, along with several doctors and additional entities. The defendants responded to the lawsuit by serving a motion to dismiss, citing the provisions of the agreement that stated the plaintiff was waiving her right to pursue civil damages regarding any dispute involving the hospital’s care.

According to the plaintiffs, the arbitration agreement was void because it violated public policy by including only a few of the provisions in the Florida Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”). The defendants argued that a severability clause contained in the agreement meant that any problematic provisions should be severed and the remainder of the agreement deemed enforceable.

The appellate court agreed with the plaintiffs’ interpretation. Referencing precedent from the Florida Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit concluded that an arbitration provision that incorporates only some of the MMA’s provisions regarding arbitration violates public policy. If the hospital wished to include the pre-suit notification requirements from the MMA in its arbitration agreement, it was required to include the remaining provisions from the MMA that are relevant to arbitrating disputes involving personal injuries arising from medical care. The appellate court rejected the defendant’s argument regarding the severability clause, finding that the severance of the problematic MMA provisions would require the courts to essentially rewrite the parties’ agreement.

If you signed an arbitration agreement that you think is unenforceable, or if another party is attempting to assert an arbitration clause against you, the experienced personal injury lawyers at Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano are here to help. We have assisted many Southwest Florida residents with litigating arbitration provisions, including victims in Fort Myers, Naples, and Cape Coral. Providing a free consultation to help you learn more about your rights, we can offer you the knowledgeable, compassionate, and dedicated legal representation that you deserve. Call us at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to schedule your appointment now.

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