Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellants' motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration agreement contained in the parties' installment-sales contract, holding that the contract was supported by mutual obligations and plainly stated that Appellants did not waive arbitration by obtaining a monetary judgment in the small claims division of district court. Appellees purchased a vehicle with an installment-sales contract but failed to make their scheduled payments. Appellees voluntarily surrendered the vehicle, the vehicle was sold, and Appellees' account was credited. Appellants filed a complaint in the small claims division seeking payment for the remaining balance, and the district court entered judgment against Appellees. Appellees appealed, counterclaimed based on usury and Uniform Commercial Code violations, and sought class certification. Appellants sought to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration agreement at issue lacked mutuality of obligation and that Appellants waived the right to arbitrate by first proceeding in district court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the arbitration agreement was valid; and (2) Appellants did not waive arbitration by first seeking monetary relief in district court. View "Jorja Trading, Inc. v. Willis" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying BHC Pinnacle Point Hospital, LLC's motion to compel arbitration of a class action complaint filed by Employees, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, holding that Employees' claims fell within the scope of their voluntary arbitration agreements with Pinnacle Pointe. In their complaint, Employees alleged that Pinnacle Point violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA), Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-201 et seq. Pinnacle Point filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration, asserting that Employees' claims fell within the scope of their respective alternative resolution for conflicts agreements they executed with Pinnacle Pointe. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred as a matter of law in denying Pinnacle Pointe's motion to compel arbitration. View "BHC Pinnacle Pointe Hospital, LLC v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the order of the circuit court denying motions to compel arbitration of a class-action complaint filed by Appellees, holding that Appellants failed to meet their burden of proving a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement with respect to certain agreements but that Appellants met their burden to prove the validity of the remainder of the arbitration agreements. Appellees filed a class-action complaint against Appellants, a nursing home and related entities, alleging that Appellants had breached their admission and provider agreements, violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, committed negligence and civil conspiracy, and had been unjustly enriched. Appellants' filed four motions to compel arbitration with respect to ten class members/residents. The circuit court denied the motions. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) certain arbitration agreements contained deficiencies that prevented Appellants from meeting their burden of proving a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement; and (2) Appellants met their burden to prove the validity of the remainder of the arbitration agreements not already discussed. View "Robinson Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, LLC v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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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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Daimante, LLC was the operator of a golf course that contained two subdivisions. Gary and Linda Dye, property owners within one subdivision, filed a declaratory-judgment complaint seeking a declaration that certain obligations and restrictions were unenforceable. Diamante moved to compel arbitration with the Dyes. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s denial of the motion to compel arbitration, finding that Diamante had waived arbitration by unnecessary delay that prejudiced the Dyes. Class members were subsequently added to the lawsuit upon class certification and filed a second amended motion for declaratory judgment. The circuit court denied Diamante’s motion to compel arbitration based on the court’s previous ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals’ decision was not conclusive on the issue of whether Diamante had waived arbitration as to the class members who were subsequently added to the lawsuit, and therefore, this argument does not compel dismissal of this appeal; and (2) because the circuit court did not issue on order as to whether there was a valid agreement to arbitrate between Diamante and the unnamed class members, the case must be reversed for the circuit court to make that determination. View "Diamante LLC v. Dye" on Justia Law

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Entergy Arkansas, Inc. and Entergy Operations, Inc. (collectively, “Entergy”) entered into an agreement with Siemens Energy, Inc. (“Siemens”) under which Siemens was to provide Entergy with services at three nuclear facilities. The agreement included an arbitration provision. Pursuant to the agreement, Entergy and Siemens agreed that Siemens would replace a large component of a generator at Entergy’s Arkansas Nuclear One (“ANO”) facility. Siemens had a separate, long-term agreement with Bigge Crane and Rigging Co. and Claus Frederiksen (collectively, “Bigge”) under which Bigge would prove crane services for Siemens at ANO. After a crane built and operated by Bigge collapsed at ANO, killing one person, injuring ten others, and causing significant damages to ANO, Entergy filed suit against Bigge and others, alleging several tort claims. Bigge moved to compel arbitration of Entergy’s claims against Bigge as a purported third-party beneficiary of the agreement between Entergy and Siemens. The circuit court denied Bigge’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding (1) that, under the facts of this case, issues of arbitrability were matters for judicial determination; and (2) that Bigge could not invoke arbitration. View "Bigge Crane & Rigging Co. v. Entergy Ark. Inc." on Justia Law