Earlier last month, an appellate court in Louisiana issued a written opinion invalidating an arbitration clause in a case brought by the parents of a young child who was injured while at the defendant’s trampoline park. In the case, Alicea v. Activelaf, the court held that although the plaintiff voluntarily signed a contract containing a clause agreeing to arbitration, the clause was invalid, and therefore the defendant cannot demand arbitration.
The Aliceas planned on taking their two young boys to the defendant’s trampoline park. However, prior to allowing anyone access to the park, the defendant required that guests sign a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk.” This is common among pay-to-play activities, such as bungee jumping, water parks, and ski resorts. Essentially, these forms, if signed, give up certain rights the guest would otherwise have. Specific to this case, the contract contained a clause waiving the plaintiffs’ right to use the court system if any personal injury claims should arise during their visit. Instead of proceeding through court, the contract stated that the claims would be settled through arbitration.
Arbitration is an alternative to the court system, in which a single arbitrator or panel of arbitrators will make a decision on a plaintiff’s personal injury claim. Arbitration is usually binding, is much cheaper for sophisticated litigants, and tends to favor the companies that seek to compel it. Whenever possible, it is usually in a plaintiff’s interest to have a case filed in a court of law rather than through arbitration.
The Aliceas filed a personal injury lawsuit against the trampoline park, claiming that the park should be responsible for their son’s injuries. In response, the park pointed to the contract and asked the court to dismiss the case and require the plaintiffs instead to submit their case to arbitration.
The court looked at the contract and determined that the clause containing the arbitration language was buried in a large block of text, making it far from clear what Mrs. Alicea was giving up when she signed the contract. The court held that it was against public policy to allow this kind of contract and invalidated the arbitration clause. As a result, the plaintiffs will be permitted to pursue their case in the court system.
Have You Signed an Arbitration Agreement?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured after signing an arbitration agreement or another kind of waiver, you may still be entitled to file your case through the court system. As was the case above, sometimes courts will invalidate one-sided contracts. The skilled premises liability attorneys at the Indiana law firm of Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson have the experience and dedication necessary to handle any personal injury case – even if a waiver was signed. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated injury attorney today. We will not bill you for our time unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
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