Articles Posted in Arkansas Supreme Court

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After the underlying business dispute proceeded to arbitration, Appellees filed in the circuit court a petition to enforce the award, and Appellant filed a cross-petition to vacate the award. The circuit court confirmed the award. Appellant appealed, arguing that the arbitrator lacked the authority to hear the case under either federal or Arkansas law and that the award should have been vacated on public policy grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order confirming the award, holding (1) jurisdiction was properly under the Federal Arbitration Act; and (2) the circuit court did not err in failing to vacate the award on public policy grounds. View "Kilgore v. Mullenax" on Justia Law

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Appellants Courtyard Gardens Health and Rehabilitation, LLC and others (“collectively Courtyard”), appealed a circuit court order denying their motion to dismiss and compel arbitration of the claims brought against them by appellee Patricia Sheffield, as special administrator of the estate of Maylissia Holliman. Courtyard argued: (1) the circuit court erroneously ruled that Johnathan Mitchell, Holliman’s emergency custodian, did not have authority to bind her to the arbitration agreement; and (2) that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because of the unavailability of the National Arbitration Forum (“NAF”). After review of this matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the court’s ruling that the custodian did not have authority to execute the arbitration agreement. Because the agreement was invalid, the Court did not address appellants' second point. View "Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab. v. Sheffield" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case were three different versions of an account agreement between Appellees, who are customers of Bank of the Ozarks, and Ozarks, which holds the accounts. The agreements included an arbitration provision. Appellees filed a class-action complaint against Ozarks, and Ozarks filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration provision in the account agreement was unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a determination as to whether there was a valid agreement to arbitrate. On remand, the circuit court determined that there was not a valid agreement to arbitrate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that the agreement lacked mutuality of obligation and in thus denying Ozarks’s motion to compel arbitration. View "Bank of the Ozarks, Inc. v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Appellees, former residents of certain nursing homes and special administrators, guardians, or attorneys-in-fact of former residents, filed a class action complaint against Appellants, GGNSC Holdings, LLC and related entities and employees. GGNSC moved to compel arbitration of claims asserted by five particular residents who, at the time of their admission into nursing homes, entered into arbitration agreements. The circuit court ultimately denied arbitration, finding that three of the five arbitration agreements were invalid because they were signed by individuals who lacked authority to agree to arbitrate and that the remaining two agreements were not enforceable to compel arbitration based on the defenses of impossibility of performance and unconscionability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by refusing to enforce the valid arbitration agreements based on the defenses of impossibility of performance and unconscionability. Remanded for the entry of an order compelling arbitration. View "GGNSC Holdings, LLC v. Lamb" on Justia Law

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Jessie and Annie Bullock were residents of Courtyard Gardens, a nursing-home facility. Linda Gulley, the Bullocks’ daughter, entered admission agreements and optional arbitration agreements on behalf of each parent. After Jessie died, Malinda Arnold, as personal representative of Jessie’s estate and as attorney-in-fact of Annie, filed a complaint against Courtyard Gardens, alleging, inter alia, negligence and medical malpractice. Courtyard Gardens moved to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration, concluding that the arbitration agreement was impossible to perform because it selected the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) to serve as arbitrator, and the NAF was no longer in business. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the NAF term was merely an ancillary logistical concern and was severable; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in denying Courtyard Gardens’ motion to compel arbitration based on impossibility of performance. View "Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab. LLC v. Arnold" on Justia Law

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Decedent became a resident of Golden Living Center, a nursing home, in 2009. Later that year, Courtyard Gardens took over ownership and operation of the facility. Thereafter, Decedent's son, Ronald Quarles signed a new admission agreement and optional arbitration agreement. In 2011, Kenny Quarles, another of Decedent's sons acting as power of attorney, filed an amended complaint against Courtyard Gardens and other entities associated with it and the Center, seeking damages for negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long-Term Care Residents' Act. Courtyard Gardens filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied Courtyard Garden's motion to compel arbitration, concluding that questions of fact remained regarding Ronald's authority to bind Decedent to the arbitration agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion to compel arbitration, holding that there was no valid arbitration agreement as a matter of law because Ronald had neither actual authority nor statutory authority to enter into the arbitration agreement on Decedent's behalf. View "Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab., LLC v. Quarles" on Justia Law

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HPD, LLC and TETRA Technologies Inc. entered into an agreement for HPD to supply equipment to be used in TETRA's future facility. The contract contained a provision for binding arbitration. After the construction of the plant was completed, TETRA filed a complaint against HPD, alleging that the equipment designed by HPD did not perform to expectations. TETRA also sought a declaratory judgment that the contract and the embedded arbitration clause were illegal and thus void because HPD performed engineering services without obtaining a certificate of authorization as allegedly required by Ark. Code Ann. 17-30-303. HPD moved to compel arbitration. After a hearing, the circuit court rule in TETRA's favor that it would determine the threshold issues of arbitrability before deciding whether the case must proceed to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the entry of an order compelling arbitration, holding that the circuit court erred by not honoring the parties' clear expression of intent to arbitrate the existing disputes. View "HPD LLC v. TETRA Techs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellee initiated this putative class-action lawsuit against DIRECTV, seeking damages for herself individually and on behalf of other former DIRECTV subscribers who paid an early cancellation fee to DIRECTV after they terminated DIRECTV's service. Appellee alleged that DIRECTV's enforcement and collection of its early cancellation fee was deceptive and unconscionable in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Appellee moved to certify the litigation as a class action. DIRECTV moved to compel Appellee to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration provision in the customer agreement that DIRECTV alleged had been mailed with Appellee's first billing statement. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration and granted Appellee's motion for class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court correctly denied DIRECTV's motion to compel Appellee to arbitration on the basis that Appellee cancelled her service so quickly she did not assent to the arbitration agreement by her continued use of service; and (2) there was no merit to DIRECTV's arguments for reversal of the class-certification order. View "DIRECTV, Inc. v. Murray" on Justia Law

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Independence County and the City of Clarksville entered into a power purchase and sale agreement that included an arbitration provision. After the City informed the County that it was going to terminate the agreement, the County filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, ruling that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because (1) the City validly exercised its right to terminate the agreement, and without the revocation of the entire agreement, the City was released from the obligation to arbitrate; and (2) the arbitration agreement lacked mutuality of obligation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable due to the absence of mutuality of obligation, and the arbitration agreement was void on that basis. View "Independence County v. City of Clarksville" on Justia Law

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SSW Holding filed a complaint against BDO Seidman and other defendants, asserting several causes of action and seeking damages arising from a tax-advantaged investment strategy involving investments in distressed debt that SSW entered into and utilized on its federal tax returns for the 2001-2005 tax years. BDO filed an amended motion to compel arbitration and stay the motion, asserting that it and SSW entered into two consulting agreements that provided for arbitration before the American Arbitration Association. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) SSW's claims fell within the scope of the arbitration provisions; and (2) the circuit court erred in finding that the arbitration provisions were unenforceable and invalid due to fraud and procedural and substantive unconscionability. Remanded. View "BDO Seidman, LLP v. SSW Holding Co." on Justia Law