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Arbitration Clause in Florida Nursing Home Agreement Struck for Damages Cap

contractFlorida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal recently ruled on a case involving an arbitration clause and a cap on damages. Specifically, the court struck an arbitration agreement due to an unenforceable damages cap within the document that was central to the agreement.

In Estate of Novosett v. Arc Villages, the court determined that an entire arbitration agreement was unenforceable due to the fact that a clause in the contract was not enforceable. The decision ultimately allows the plaintiff to pursue a remedy through a lawsuit, rather than being forced to go through arbitration.

Here, the plaintiffs were surviving relatives of a nursing home resident who had died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. People living in the nursing home had to sign admissions documents, including an arbitration agreement. When the plaintiffs tried to pursue a negligence lawsuit, the defendants tried to compel arbitration due to the arbitration clause in the agreement.

Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care. Reasonable care is how a prudent individual or entity would behave in the same or similar circumstances. Thus, a nursing home’s conduct would be compared to another nursing home dealing with the same situation. Negligence can also arise when an individual or entity fails to act when there is a duty to do so.

The trial court ruled that the damages cap was against public policy and void. Nevertheless, the court compelled arbitration because the agreement contained a severability clause, which stated that even if one part of the contract is not enforceable, the rest of it is.

The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s decision. The Fifth DCA concluded that the existence of a severability clause in an agreement is not dispositive of whether a void clause renders the whole agreement invalid. In this case, since the agreement contained an unenforceable provision that went to the heart of the document, the entire document was unenforceable. As a result, the court reversed. Put another way, the severability clause was not enough to preserve the agreement to arbitrate.

Under state law, there is a limited amount of time that an individual has to file a personal injury lawsuit, known as the statute of limitations. In Florida, you have four years from the date of the accident to file a claim in Florida’s civil courts. Failing to file within this time frame could mean losing your legal right to pursue compensation altogether.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a nursing home, and you want to discuss a potential claim, it is important to reach out to a qualified Miami nursing home negligence attorney. At the Law Offices of Robert Dixon, we will take the time to assess the merits of your case and determine a legal strategy accordingly. You can rest assured that we will keep you informed about the status of your case at every step of the way. To learn more, feel free to call us at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) or contact us online today.

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