Florida has long served as a destination for America’s elderly population and, as a result, has also become home to a considerable number of retirement homes and assisted living facilities. Regrettably, despite the best efforts of the Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs, the care residents at these facilities receive remains an issue. Even when cases of elder abuse are properly identified, many litigants encounter a variety of problems when they bring legal action to redress their grievances. Among these issues is the pervasive use of arbitration clauses in retirement home and assisted living facility contracts. However, notwithstanding the ubiquity of arbitration provisions, the Fourth District Court of Appeal again took a firm stance against their enforceability in its recent decision in Lopez v. Andie’s, Inc..
Lopez arose from allegations involving resident care at Willow Manor Retirement Home, an assisted-care living facility in Dania Beach, Florida. Following an incident in 2011, which resulted in a severe fracture to a resident’s arm, the resident brought suit against the facility. However, shortly after the case was filed, the defendant moved to compel arbitration, arguing that the arbitration provision in the agreement executed between the resident and Willow Manor at the time of the resident’s admission required that any controversy or dispute between the parties be determined through a binding arbitration proceeding held in accordance with the American Health Lawyers Association (“AHLA”) alternative dispute resolution rules. After the trial court granted the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration, the plaintiff brought an appeal, arguing that the arbitration procedures were contrary to public policy and thus unenforceable.