Florida Justices Reject Arbitration In Nursing Home Case

Sep 23, 2016

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a lawsuit about injuries suffered by a nursing-home resident should not be sent to arbitration.

The Miami-Dade County case centered on a contract that was signed in 2009 by Juan Mendez Jr. when his father, Juan Sr., was admitted to Hampton Court Nursing Center, the ruling said. Part of the contract said legal disputes would be resolved in arbitration, rather than going to court and potentially being decided by a jury.

But in 2011, the elder Mendez suffered an infection that required the removal of his left eye. The son later filed a lawsuit against the nursing home in Miami-Dade County circuit court on his father's behalf, but the nursing home argued that the case should go to arbitration. The father died in 2013, but the legal dispute continued.

A circuit judge and the 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed with the nursing home's position that the case should go to arbitration. But in a 5-2 decision Thursday, the Supreme Court said the father could not be bound by an arbitration requirement that his son had signed without the father's agreement.

Appeals courts across the state in recent years have dealt with questions about the validity of arbitration agreements that nursing-home residents or family members have signed at the time of admission.

The cases have dealt with a variety of scenarios, but the majority opinion said appeals courts were divided in their handling of disputes involving facts similar to the Mendez case.