Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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Arbitration is a contractual agreement between parties. And only agreed-upon arbitrable disputes are subject to arbitration. On de novo review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found in this case a valid arbitration agreement, but the subject of the lessee’s premises-liability claim (a dispute that stemmed from a physical and sexual assault on the apartment complex premises) was not within the arbitration agreement’s scope, as it did not arise under or relate to her “occupancy and leasing of the [apartment].” Because the dispute was outside the agreement’s scope, the trial court erred by staying proceedings and ordering arbitration. View "Jane Doe v. Hallmark Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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Following court-ordered mediation, spouses Gary Rolison and Martha Rolison and Caleb Fryar and his father, Robert Fryar, entered into a mediation settlement agreement that resolved four lawsuits pending between the Rolisons and the Fryars. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court found that the Rolisons had breached the settlement agreement, and the court entered a final judgment pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and postponed hearing the issue of damages. The Rolisons appealed the final judgment but later dismissed the appeal voluntarily. After the trial on damages, the trial court awarded the Fryars $399,733.02 in damages, including lost profits and attorney fees. The Rolisons appealed, arguing that their jury trial waiver was ineffective, the trial court’s Rule 54(b) certification was erroneous, and the trial court erroneously denied a motion to intervene filed by two interested parties. Because the Rolisons dismissed their appeal from the Rule 54(b) final judgment, those issues were not at issue before the Supreme Court. After further review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court committed no error by finding that the Rolisons had waived their right to a jury trial on damages and attorney fees. Further, the Court rejected the Rolisons’ challenges to the trial court’s awards of damages and attorney fees because those awards were supported by substantial, credible evidence. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Rolison v. Fryar" on Justia Law

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Linde Health Care Staffing, Inc., received a favorable arbitration award in Missouri against the Claiborne County Hospital. Linde reduced the award to a Missouri judgment, then enrolled the foreign judgment in two Mississippi counties. The Hospital successfully moved to set aside the foreign judgment in both Mississippi counties, since it never contracted with Linde and, thus, was not bound by the contract’s arbitration agreement. On appeal, Linde argued the Hospital’s motions to set aside the foreign judgment were filed too late and were time-barred by the Federal Arbitration Act’s procedural rules. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the FAA could not bind an entity that neither agreed to arbitrate nor contracted with the arbitration claimant. Therefore the Court affirmed the two Mississippi judgments setting aside the enrollment of the foreign judgment. View "Linde Health Care Staffing, Inc. v. Claiborne County Hospital" on Justia Law

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On her father’s behalf, Debra Tarvin signed a nursing home Admission Agreement which contained an arbitration provision. After her father Caldwell Tarvin died, she brought a wrongful-death suit against the nursing home, CLC of Jackson, LLC d/b/a Pleasant Hills Community Living Center (“Pleasant Hills”). Caldwell was admitted to Pleasant Hills in August 2007, and Debra signed an Admission Agreement as Caldwell’s “Responsible Party.” Janet Terrell and Annette Tarvin also signed the Agreement as “Family Members” but Caldwell himself did not sign the Agreement. Pleasant Hills moved to dismiss the proceedings and to compel arbitration. Debra responded and argued that Pleasant Hills had waived its right to compel arbitration by participating in the litigation. Debra also argued that Pleasant Hills had “completely ignore[d] the issue of whether or not Mr. Tarvin’s family members had the legal authority to bind him to an arbitration agreement[.]” Specifically, Debra argued that there was “no legal authority, such as a power of attorney or conservatorship” by which she could bind her father to the arbitration agreement, nor could she bind him under the Uniform Healthcare Decisions Act, because “the record is devoid of any evidence” that the physicians relied upon by Pleasant Hills were Caldwell’s primary physicians. The trial court granted Pleasant Hills' motion, and Debra appealed. The relevant statutes at play here were codified as the “Uniform Health-Care Decisions Act,” Mississippi Code Section 41-41-201 to 41-41-229 (the “Act”). The Supreme Court's review of this case found that Act required determination by a primary physician that an individual lacks capacity before a “surrogate” properly can make a healthcare decision for that individual. The record here did not support a finding that a certain "Dr. Thomas" was Caldwell’s primary physician. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s order compelling arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Tarvin v. CLC of Jackson, LLC d/b/a Pleasant Hills Community Living Center" on Justia Law

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The administrator of the Pearl River County Hospital entered into a contract with Wellness, Inc., for Wellness to provide furnishings, fixtures, equipment, and systems for the Hospital’s renovation. The Hospital subsequently sued Wellness (and other defendants not party to this appeal) alleging fraud, conspiracy, breach of contract, and other causes of action. Before trial commenced, Wellness moved to compel mediation and arbitration and to stay proceedings. After a hearing on the motion, the circuit court denied the motion in its entirety. Wellness appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wellness, Inc. v. Pearl River County Hospital" on Justia Law

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Leo Brown was admitted to the Hattiesburg Health and Rehab Center (HHRC) in February 2012. His wife, Emma, signed an admission agreement both in her individual capacity and on Leo's behalf. Specifically, Emma's signature appears on a line just above the line: "signature of responsible party in his/her individual capacity and on behalf of the resident in the following capacity," where Emma circled the "authorized agent and/or health care surrogate" option. Leo did not sign the agreement. Her husband died soon after his discharge, and she brought a wrongful-death suit against HHRC. HHRC moved to stay the proceedings and to compel arbitration. The trial judge held a hearing on HHRC's motion and denied it, stating: "I do not agree that [Emma] was authorized to sign on Mr. Brown's behalf, and I don't – I do not agree that it is binding on Mr. Brown." The trial judge later entered an order, finding again that the Admission Agreement was not binding on Leo. HHRC appealed, challenging the trial court judgment as to: (1) whether the arbitration provision contained within the Admission Agreement entered between Emma Brown, individually and on behalf of Leo Brown, and [HHRC] created a valid and enforceable agreement to arbitrate; and (2) whether the arbitration provision contained within the Admission Agreement entered between Emma Brown, individually and on behalf of Leo Brown, and [HHRC] was unconscionable. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that Leo is not bound by the arbitration provision. And because that issue was dispositive, the Court did not address HHRC's unconscionability argument. View "Hattiesburg Health & Rehab Center, LLC v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Nilene Junker was admitted to the Nichols Center nursing facility after surgery. Junker's daughter, acting with power of attorney, signed an admission agreement on Junker's behalf. The admission agreement contained an arbitration clause. While she was being put in a room, Junker fell and sustained injuries. Junker sued the Nichols Center, and the nursing home filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration. The court ruled from the bench without hearing arguments from the parties, holding that the arbitration agreement was not valid and that the "arbitration agreement must fail because it does not make provision for an arbitrator in the event the parties could not agree." The Nichols Center appealed the denial of its motion to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding the circuit court erred by denying the motion to compel arbitration on the basis of forum unavailability. "The motion to compel asked the court to determine whether the arbitration agreement was valid and enforceable. The court was not asked to rewrite the terms of the agreement to provide for an arbitrator, but rather to compel Junker to comply with the procedures outlined in the agreement. There must be some attempt by the parties to select an arbitrator; then, if the parties cannot agree, the court may be called on to appoint an arbitrator." The case was remanded for a hearing on the motion to compel and a determination of the validity of the arbitration agreement. "If the arbitration agreement is valid, Junker cannot simply refuse to arbitrate." View "NC Leasing, LLC v. Junker" on Justia Law

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The McTaggarts filed suit against the former trustee and trust advisor of their family trust, alleging improper handling of their trust funds. The former trustee and trust advisor moved to dismiss the case or have the case stayed pending arbitration, based on an arbitration provision in a wealth-management agreement between the former trustee and trust advisor. The trial court found that, because the McTaggarts did not sign the agreement containing the arbitration provision and because the agreement specifically excluded nonsignatories, including third-party beneficiaries, the arbitration provision was not binding on the McTaggarts. The former trustee and trust advisor appealed. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pinnacle Trust Company, L.L.C., EFP Advisors, Inc. v. McTaggart" on Justia Law

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Lacie Smith worked for Express Check Advance of Mississippi, LLC. A condition in her employment papers was that she agreed to submit “any employment-related dispute” to arbitration. Later, in response to her termination, Smith sued Express Check in circuit court. The trial judge compelled arbitration and Smith appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Express Check Advance of Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a fee dispute between associated attorneys arising out of mass-tort cases in Copiah County between 2005 and 2010. The first appeal arose out of a joint-venture agreement between Don Mitchell and the law firm of Sweet & Freeese, PLLC. The second appeal stemmed from an alleged oral referral agreement between McHugh Fuller Law Group, PLLC, and the members of the joint venture. The appellants in this consolidated appeal challenged the County Chancery Court’s denial of their motions to compel arbitration of claims brought against them by Mitchell and the McHugh Fuller Law Group, PLLC. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Freese v. Mitchell" on Justia Law