The Role of Arbitration in Florida Personal Injury Cases

November 25, 2020

Arbitration is becoming increasingly popular. Many companies often prefer arbitration hearings to air out and resolve disputes over addressing claims in court through litigation because of the lower cost, greater convenience, and comparatively speedier process that arbitration offers. Arbitrations, however, often lack transparency and provide limited recourse after a final decision has been made because appeals are typically unavailable. Thus, some plaintiffs often prefer to battle it out in the courts over an arbitration hearing.

In a recent Florida appeals decision, the court considered a motion to compel arbitration between two parties. The case involved a plaintiff who was a resident of the defendant nursing home. The plaintiff alleged that the nursing home failed to provide necessary care and shelter when Hurricane Irma hit. The plaintiff argued that the nursing home negligently allowed for its residents to stay in high-heat conditions for days failed to evacuate residents when conditions became dangerous and life-threatening and lacked a proper plan to evacuate in the case of an emergency. The defendant moved to compel arbitration under a clause in a contract between the parties. The plaintiff objected, claiming that her tort claims were not covered by the arbitration clause. The lower court ruled in favor of the defendants by granting the motion to compel arbitration, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s holding and sided with the defendants. The plaintiff’s claims, the court reasoned, were related to and arose from the contract between the parties. In addition, the plaintiff’s entire relationship with the defendant was based on that contract, meaning that the plaintiff’s claims involving the defendant’s failure to provide services and protect her should be resolved through the arbitration clause within that same agreement.

In Florida, courts have typically favored arbitration agreements over litigation in the courts. When classifying arbitration agreements, Florida courts have broken such matters into two categories: (1) clauses with language and application that are narrow in scope, and (2) clauses with language and application broad in scope. Clauses that are narrow in scope cover claims “arising out of or related to” the contract containing the arbitration provision, including tort claims. If the claims being brought by the plaintiff have a significant relationship to the contract—regardless of whether the claim is a tort or other claim—it will be considered narrow in scope.

In addition, claims that have a nexus to the contract or arise from the terms of the contract will be classified as narrow in scope. As long as the claims being brought by the plaintiff relate to the agreement between the parties, the courts will typically favor a motion to compel for arbitration.

Do You Need a Florida Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or someone you love has been recently involved in an accident where arbitration is being proposed, contact the experienced attorneys at the Grife Law Firm. Our lawyers have years of experience working with clients of all walks of life and will tirelessly advocate on your behalf to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. We handle all types of personal injury claims, including Florida nursing home abuse and neglect claims. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at 855-998-0770.