Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center, Inc., d/b/a Sovereign Health of San Clemente, and its owner, Tonmoy Sharma, (collectively Sovereign) appealed the trial court's denial of Sovereign's motion to compel arbitration of claims asserted by Allen and Rose Nelson for themselves and on behalf of their deceased son, Brandon. The Nelsons alleged a cause of action for wrongful death, and on behalf of Brandon, negligence, negligence per se, dependent adult abuse or neglect, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud. According to the complaint, despite concluding that 26-year-old "Brandon requires 24 hour supervision ... at this time" after admitting him to its residential facility following his recent symptoms of psychosis, Sovereign personnel allowed him to go to his room alone, where he hung himself with the drawstring of his sweatpants. The trial court denied Sovereign's motion to compel arbitration because: (1) the court found Sovereign failed to meet its burden to authenticate an electronic signature as Brandon's on Sovereign's treatment center emollment agreement; and (2) even assuming Brandon signed the agreement, it was procedurally and substantively unconscionable, precluding enforcement against Brandon or, derivatively, his parents. Sovereign challenged the trial court's authentication and unconscionability findings. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Nelson v. Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court quashed the decision of the Second District Court of Appeal reversing the circuit court's grant of Airbnb, Inc.'s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the circuit court did not err in compelling arbitration.Plaintiffs brought this complaint against Airbnb, alleging constructive intrusion and loss of consortium. After a hearing, the circuit court granted Airbnb's motion to compel arbitration and stayed the underlying lawsuit pending arbitration, finding that the parties entered into an express agreement that incorporated the the American Arbitration Association (AAA) rules, requiring Airbnb to submit the issue of arbitrability to the arbitrator. The Second District Court reversed, concluding that the arbitration provision and the AAA rule it referenced did not amount to "clear and unmistakable" evidence that the parties agreed to arbitrate arbitrability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Airbnb's terms of service that incorporate by reference rules that expressly delegate arbitrability determinations to an arbitrator constitute clear and unmistakable evidence of the parties' intent to authorize an arbitrator, rather than a court, to resolve questions of arbitrability. View "Airbnb, Inc. v. Doe" on Justia Law

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Claude Rogers, a former resident of a residential care facility for the elderly known as Meadow Oaks of Roseville, died after experiencing heatstroke. His wife and successor-in-interest Kathryn and sons Jeffrey, Phillip and Richard sued Meadow Oaks of Roseville, Roseville SH, LLC, CPR/AR Roseville SH Owner, LLC, DCP Investors Roseville SH, LLC, DCP Management Roseville SH, LLC, Westmont Living, Inc., Tanysha Borromeo, Ana Rojas, and Andrew Badoud for elder abuse, fraud, and wrongful death. Defendants appealed an order denying their petition to compel plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims pursuant to an arbitration agreement that was part of the Residency Agreement Richard signed as Claude’s representative. Although defendants filed a notice of appeal, the appellate briefs were filed on behalf of Roseville SH, LLC only. Roseville SH, LLC contended that in denying the petition to compel arbitration: (1) the trial court erroneously believed defendants had to show that Claude lacked mental capacity to consent before they could prove that Richard had the authority to sign the arbitration agreement for Claude; (2) the trial court erred in concluding that Richard did not act as Claude’s actual or ostensible agent when he signed the arbitration agreement on Claude’s behalf; and (3) the trial court’s order violated the Federal Arbitration Act. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) Roseville SH, LLC misconstrued the trial court’s analysis; (2) the trial court did not err in denying the petition to compel arbitration; and (3) the trial court’s order did not violate the Federal Arbitration Act. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Rogers v. Roseville SH, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Curtis Olson failed to show the requisite "minimal merit" on a critical element of his breach of contract claim and thus could not defeat Jane Doe's anti-SLAPP motion.Doe and Olson each owned units in the same condominium building. Doe brought a civil harassment restraining order against Olson, and as a result of court-ordered mediation, the parties agreed if they encountered each other in a public or common place "not to disparage one another." Doe later filed a civil lawsuit against Olson seeking damages. Olson cross-complained for breach of contract and specific performance, and Doe moved to strike Olson's cross-complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal's judgment insofar as it reversed the trial court's order granting Doe's special motion to strike the breach of contract clause of action with respect to statements in Doe's civil complaint, holding that Doe had no obligation under the contract to refrain from making disparaging statements in litigation, and therefore, Olson could not defeat Doe's anti-SLAPP motion. View "Olson v. Doe" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court denying a motion to compel arbitration, holding that a fee agreement between a client and her attorney, especially where the attorney agrees to advance the costs of arbitration, is relevant to determining a plaintiff's ability to arbitrate her claims.Plaintiff signed two contracts with Defendants when arranging for her mother, Concetta Rizzio, to live at a nursing care facility. Each contract included an arbitration clause with a cost-shifting provision (the agreement) stating that Rizzio would be responsible for all costs of arbitration if she made a claim against the nursing home. When a fellow resident attacked Rizzio, Plaintiff brought this action alleging negligence and abuse of a vulnerable adult. The trial court denied Defendants' motion to compel arbitration, finding that the agreement was unduly oppressive, unenforceable, and unconscionable. The court of appeals reversed as to the issue of procedural unconscionability but agreed that the cost-shifting provision was substantively unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the agreement was not substantively unconscionable and that it was enforceable. View "Rizzio v. Surpass Senior Living LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff B. A. Tyler filed suit against David Findling; the Findling Law Firm, PLC; and Mekel Miller, alleging that David Findling published defamatory statements to attorney Anna Wright by telling her that plaintiff and plaintiff’s client (Samir Warda, for whose estate Findling had been appointed as a receiver) might have engaged in inappropriate or illegal activities. Findling made the allegedly defamatory statements to Wright, Warda’s attorney in a personal protection insurance (PIP) lawsuit, who recorded the conversation, in a room reserved for the plaintiffs’ side at the outset of a court-ordered mediation in the PIP matter. Wright subsequently shared this recording with plaintiff. Findling and his law firm (collectively, “defendants”) moved for summary judgment, and plaintiff responded with an affidavit by Wright. Defendants moved to strike Wright’s affidavit and to preclude her testimony at trial. The trial court granted the motion to strike under MCL 2.412(C), which governed the confidentiality of mediation communications, and granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff’s motion to file an amended complaint was also denied. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s order granting defendants’ motion to strike Wright’s affidavit and find her testimony inadmissible, reversed the order granting defendants summary judgment, affirmed the order denying plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, and remanded for further proceedings. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in part, finding Findling's statements were indeed "mediation communications" under MCR 2.412(B)(2) and were therefore confidential under MCR 2.412(C). The Supreme Court also determined the appeals court erred in reversing the grant of summary judgment without which, plaintiff had no evidence to support the relevant defamation allegations. In all other respects, the appellate court's judgment was affirmed. View "Tyler v. Finding" on Justia Law

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The primary issue in consolidated appeals was the scope of an automobile insurance policy’s arbitration provision. Two insureds with identical Allstate Insurance Company medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage settled with their respective at-fault drivers for applicable liability insurance policy limits and then made medical payments and UIM benefits claims to Allstate. Allstate and the insureds were unable to resolve the UIM claims and went to arbitration as the policy required. The arbitration panels initially answered specific questions submitted about the insureds’ accident-related damages. At the insureds’ requests but over Allstate’s objections, the panels later calculated what the panels believed Allstate ultimately owed the insureds under their medical payments and UIM coverages and issued final awards. Allstate filed superior court suits to confirm the initial damages calculations, reject the final awards as outside the arbitration panels’ authority, and have the court determine the total amounts payable to the insureds under their policies. The judge assigned to both suits affirmed the final arbitration awards; Allstate appealed both decisions. The Alaska Supreme Court determined the arbitration panels had no authority to determine anything beyond the insureds’ damages arising from their accidents and because Allstate withheld its consent for the panels to determine anything else, the Court reversed the superior court’s decisions and judgments. The Supreme Court also reversed some aspects of the superior court’s separate analysis and rulings on legal issues that the panels improperly decided. Given (1) the arbitration panels’ damages calculations and (2) the Supreme Court's clarification of legal issues presented, the cases were remanded for the superior court to determine the amount, if any, Allstate had to pay each insured under their medical payments and UIM coverages. View "Allstate Insurance Company v. Harbour" on Justia Law

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Two former employees of Michael Morse and his firm, Michael J. Morse, PC, sued Morse for workplace sexual harassment, including sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligence, gross negligence, and wanton and willful misconduct; and civil conspiracy. In both cases, the firm moved to dismiss and compel arbitration on the basis that both women signed the firm’s Mandatory Dispute Resolution Procedure agreement (MDRPA) prior to accepting employment with the firm. The trial court granted defendants' motion in each case, concluding that the arbitration agreement was valid and enforceable and that the claims were related to the employees' employment and therefore subject to arbitration. A majority of the Court of Appeals concluded that plaintiffs’ claims of sexual assault were not subject to arbitration because sexual assault was not “related to” plaintiffs’ employment. Further, the Court of Appeals stated that the fact that the alleged assaults would not have occurred but for plaintiffs’ employment with the firm did not provide a sufficient nexus between the terms of the arbitration agreement and the alleged sexual assaults. "Defendants noted certain facts that supported connections between plaintiffs’ claims and their employment, including that the alleged assaults occurred at work or work-related functions. But those facts did not necessarily make plaintiffs’ claims relative to employment; rather, the facts had to be evaluated under a standard that distinguished claims relative to employment from claims not relative to employment. This analysis prevents the absurdity of an arbitration clause that bars the parties from litigating any matter, regardless of how unrelated to the substance of the agreement, and it ensures that the mere existence of a contract does not mean that every dispute between the parties is arbitrable. Neither the circuit courts nor the Court of Appeals considered this standard when evaluating defendants’ motions to compel arbitration." Rather than apply this newly adopted approach in the first instance, the Michigan Supreme Court vacated the judgments of the Court of Appeals and remanded the cases to the circuit courts so that those courts could analyze defendants’ motions to compel arbitration by determining which of plaintiffs’ claims could be maintained without reference to the contract or employment relationship. View "Lichon v. Morse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court compelling Plaintiff to arbitrate his claims of wrongful death and negligence against Signature HealthCARE of East Louisville, holding that arbitration was required on all claims.To secure his father's admittance into Signature, a long-term care facility, Plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement as his father's authorized representative. After his father died, Plaintiff brought a negligence and wrongful death claim against Signature. Signature filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff's wrongful death claim was arbitrable because he signed the arbitration agreement in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that both Plaintiff's individual claims and that claims he brought as the representative of his father's estate were subject to arbitration. View "LP Louisville East, LLC v. Patton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, consisting of the estate of decedent Edward William Kuntz (decedent), his wife, and his three children, sued, among others, the Kaiser Foundation Hospital and the Permanente Medical Group, Inc. (collectively Kaiser), asserting causes of action sounding in elder abuse, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death. Kaiser filed a petition to stay the action and compel arbitration. The trial court granted the petition as to the elder abuse cause of action, staying the other causes of action. Ultimately, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Kaiser. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing: (1) Kaiser failed to satisfy its burden of producing a valid agreement to arbitrate; and (2) Kaiser failed to comply with the mandatory requirements of Health and Safety Code section 1363.1 concerning the disclosure of arbitration requirements. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Kuntz v. Kaiser Foundation Hospital" on Justia Law