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Juan Mendez, Jr. v. Hampton Court Nursing Center, LLC, Case 3D13-1855 (3rd DCA)

In Mendez, the Third DCA affirmed the trial court’s order compelling arbitration of a claim filed by Mendez, as guardian on behalf of his father, relating to alleged negligence by the nursing home defendant. Mendez’s father was admitted to a nursing facility which required execution of an agreement containing a broad arbitration clause. Mendez signed the agreement on a signature line indicating “signature of resident’s representative.” Mendez argued that the arbitration clause was not binding upon his father, who was not a party to the agreement.

Noting that courts generally favor arbitration, the Third DCA found that “arbitration clauses in contracts are binding on third party beneficiaries.” “This is true even if the third-party beneficiary did not sign the contract containing the arbitration agreement: a nonsignatory in an arbitration agreement may be bound to arbitrate if the nonsignatory has received something more than an incidental or consequential benefit of the contract, or if the nonsignatory is specifically the intended third-party beneficiary of the contract.” The Third DCA noted that Mendez’s father was not merely the incidental beneficiary of the agreement, but instead was the intended third-party beneficiary of the agreement. The court acknowledges that there are appellate decisions which conclude that nursing home residents who are nonsignatories to the care agreements under which they receive care are not bound by arbitration clauses in those agreements, including the Fourth DCA’s decision in Lepisto v. Senior Lifestyle Newport Limited Partnership, 78 So. 3d 89 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012). The Third DCA determined that it cannot agree with those decisions, because it cannot reconcile those decisions with the law on third-party beneficiaries and Florida’s public policy favoring arbitration.

The Third DCA therefore concluded: “parties are free to enter into contracts as they see fit; arbitration clauses are favored; and parties are held to have read contracts that they sign.”


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