Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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Plaintiff filed a medical-malpractice action for injuries allegedly sustained by his wife while she was a resident at Defendant’s nursing home. Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration and for dismissal, asserting that the case was controlled by a valid arbitration agreement. The circuit court entered a general denial order denying the motion to compel arbitration. Defendant subsequently filed a timely motion for specific findings of fact and conclusions of law. The circuit court did not rule on the motion, and it was deemed denied. Defendant appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as untimely. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals and affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration.View "Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Soc’y v. Kolesar" on Justia Law

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Asset Acceptance, LLC filed a complaint against Amy Newby, alleging that Newby had received a credit card from Asset and that her account was past due and remained unpaid. Newby asserted counterclaims against Asset. Asset subsequently filed a motion to compel arbitration, claiming that the credit card was issued to Newby by Chase Bank and was subject to a cardholder agreement that contained an arbitration provision. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that Asset had waived its right to arbitration by filing its complaint in the circuit court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) denying Asset’s motion to compel arbitration, and (2) denying sanctions against Asset pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 11. View "Asset Acceptance LLC v. Newby" on Justia Law

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Appellees filed a class-action complaint against a Bank, asserting several claims arising from the Bank’s alleged practice of manipulating customers’ checking-account debit transactions to maximize the amount of overdraft fees charged to each customer. The Bank filed a motion to dismiss, or alternatively, a motion to compel arbitration based on an arbitration provision contained in the Deposit Agreement attached to Appellees’ complaint. In response, Appellees denied the existence of a valid arbitration agreement. The circuit court denied Bank’s motion, ruling that the arbitration provision was unconscionable and, thus, unenforceable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the circuit court did not find that there was a valid arbitration agreement, the case must be remanded to the circuit court to determine whether there was a valid agreement to arbitrate between the parties. View "Bank of the Ozarks, Inc. v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Appellee, as special administrator of the estate of Rufus Owens and on behalf of the wrongful death beneficiaries of Owens, filed a lawsuit against Pine Hills Health and Rehabilitation, LLC and others for injuries Owens sustained during his care and treatment at Pine Hills. Appellants moved to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement. Appellee argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because there was no evidence of mutual assent where the agreement was signed by Appellee as the "responsible party" but did not bear the signature of a representative of Pine Hills. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no objective evidence of mutual assent, and therefore, the arbitration agreement was unenforceable. View "Pine Hills Health & Rehab., LLC v. Matthews" on Justia Law

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Decedent was a resident of Searcy Healthcare Center (SHC) from January 7 to January 29. On January 8, Decedent executed a written arbitration agreement with SHC that was binding on Decedent's children, personal representatives, and administrators of Decedent's estate. Decedent died on February 12. The next year, Appellee filed a nursing-home-malpractice action against SHC as administrator of Decedent's estate and on behalf of the statutory wrongful-death beneficiaries. The circuit court denied SHC's motion to compel arbitration against the wrongful-death beneficiaries, concluding that Decedent had not extinguished the substantive rights of the wrongful-death beneficiaries by signing the arbitration agreement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred as a matter of law in finding that the wrongful-death beneficiaries were not bound by the arbitration agreement executed by Decedent. Remanded. View "Searcy Healthcare Ctr., LLC v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff obtained a last will and testament from LegalZoom.com. Before receiving the requested document, Plaintiff agreed to LegalZoom.com's terms of service, which included an arbitration provision. The agreement also provided that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) governed the interpretation and enforcement of the agreement's provisions. Plaintiff later filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that LegalZoom.com engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, among other claims. LegalZoom.com filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion based upon the allegations concerning the unauthorized practice of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred because Arkansas law does not prohibit the enforcement of arbitration agreements requiring resolution through arbitration of private claims when a dispute concerns allegations of the unauthorized practice of law; and (2) any rule prohibiting arbitration of unauthorized practice-of-law claims were preempted by the FAA in this case. View "Legalzoom.com, Inc. v. McIllwain" on Justia Law

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Decedent became a resident of Golden Living Center, a nursing home, in 2009. Later that year, Courtyard Gardens took over ownership and operation of the facility. Thereafter, Decedent's son, Ronald Quarles signed a new admission agreement and optional arbitration agreement. In 2011, Kenny Quarles, another of Decedent's sons acting as power of attorney, filed an amended complaint against Courtyard Gardens and other entities associated with it and the Center, seeking damages for negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of the Arkansas Long-Term Care Residents' Act. Courtyard Gardens filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied Courtyard Garden's motion to compel arbitration, concluding that questions of fact remained regarding Ronald's authority to bind Decedent to the arbitration agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion to compel arbitration, holding that there was no valid arbitration agreement as a matter of law because Ronald had neither actual authority nor statutory authority to enter into the arbitration agreement on Decedent's behalf. View "Courtyard Gardens Health & Rehab., LLC v. Quarles" on Justia Law

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HPD, LLC and TETRA Technologies Inc. entered into an agreement for HPD to supply equipment to be used in TETRA's future facility. The contract contained a provision for binding arbitration. After the construction of the plant was completed, TETRA filed a complaint against HPD, alleging that the equipment designed by HPD did not perform to expectations. TETRA also sought a declaratory judgment that the contract and the embedded arbitration clause were illegal and thus void because HPD performed engineering services without obtaining a certificate of authorization as allegedly required by Ark. Code Ann. 17-30-303. HPD moved to compel arbitration. After a hearing, the circuit court rule in TETRA's favor that it would determine the threshold issues of arbitrability before deciding whether the case must proceed to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the entry of an order compelling arbitration, holding that the circuit court erred by not honoring the parties' clear expression of intent to arbitrate the existing disputes. View "HPD LLC v. TETRA Techs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellee initiated this putative class-action lawsuit against DIRECTV, seeking damages for herself individually and on behalf of other former DIRECTV subscribers who paid an early cancellation fee to DIRECTV after they terminated DIRECTV's service. Appellee alleged that DIRECTV's enforcement and collection of its early cancellation fee was deceptive and unconscionable in violation of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Appellee moved to certify the litigation as a class action. DIRECTV moved to compel Appellee to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration provision in the customer agreement that DIRECTV alleged had been mailed with Appellee's first billing statement. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration and granted Appellee's motion for class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court correctly denied DIRECTV's motion to compel Appellee to arbitration on the basis that Appellee cancelled her service so quickly she did not assent to the arbitration agreement by her continued use of service; and (2) there was no merit to DIRECTV's arguments for reversal of the class-certification order. View "DIRECTV, Inc. v. Murray" on Justia Law

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Independence County and the City of Clarksville entered into a power purchase and sale agreement that included an arbitration provision. After the City informed the County that it was going to terminate the agreement, the County filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, ruling that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because (1) the City validly exercised its right to terminate the agreement, and without the revocation of the entire agreement, the City was released from the obligation to arbitrate; and (2) the arbitration agreement lacked mutuality of obligation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable due to the absence of mutuality of obligation, and the arbitration agreement was void on that basis.