From the July 12, 2013 edition of Florida Law Weekly
FI-Evergreen Woods LLC v. The Estate of Virginia Vrastil (5th DCA): This is a wrongful death case where the decedent was admitted to a nursing home. At the time of admission, paperwork was signed, including an arbitration agreement. Following the decedent’s death, the personal representative of the Estate sued the nursing home for breach of fiduciary duty and violations of Fla. Stat. 415.1111. The defendant nursing home moved to stay the proceedings to compel arbitration. The Trial Court, without conducting a hearing and without determining whether the arbitration agreement had been entered into, denied the motion to compel arbitration, ruling that the arbitration agreement proffered by the defendant limited the statutory remedies available to an injured nursing home resident and as result was void as against public policy. The initial argument on appeal was that the Trial Court erred in not conducting an evidentiary hearing as required by Florida Statute 682.03 (1). The Appellate Court agreed and remanded the matter back to the Trial Court.
The Court of Appeal then addressed the plaintiff’s argument with respect to the arbitration agreement being void as against public policy. The Court of Appeal found that the provisions of the arbitration clause did not violate public policy. The Court of Appeal went into great detail in distinguishing the arbitration agreement before it versus the agreement presented to Florida Supreme Court in Shotts v. OP Winterhaven, Inc., 86 So. 3d 456 (Fla. 2011), which was found to be void. Specifically, the Court of Appeal found that the arbitration agreement before it did not limit any of the plaintiff’s statutory remedies. Because of this, the Court of Appeal found that none of the grounds relied upon by the Trial Court sporting its finding that the proffered arbitration agreement was void as against public policy. The Court of Appeal further found that the other arguments brought by the plaintiff, mainly the limitations on discovery and the costs associated with arbitration, did not render the agreement void as against public policy.