Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Lawsuit Permitted to Proceed Despite Signed Arbitration Agreement

Earlier this month, one state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a case brought by the parents of a young boy who was injured while participating in the defendant’s trampoline park. In the case, Alicea v. Activelaf, the court allowed the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the defendant to proceed toward trial despite the fact that the plaintiff signed an agreement to arbitrate any claims against the defendant.

The Facts

The Aliceas were planning on taking their two young boys to the defendant’s trampoline park. Prior to being admitted into the park, the Aliceas were required to sign a “Participant Agreement, Release and Assumption of Risk.” The online form contained three large blocks of text with check boxes next to each. The form required checks in all three boxes, the names and dates of birth of all participating children, and a signature at the bottom. The form contained several clauses; relevant to this case was an arbitration clause that purported to waive any right that the participant had to file a case against the defendant in a court of law. Instead, all claims would be settled by arbitration. There was also a clause stating that a $5,000 fee would be imposed if a case was filed against the defendant in a court of law. Ms. Alicea checked all three boxes on the form, signed it, and submitted it electronically.

Later that day, Mr. Alicea took the boys to the park. During their time at the defendant’s park, one of their sons was injured while jumping on a trampoline. The Aliceas, claiming that they did not knowingly consent to arbitration, filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

The defendant sought to enforce the terms of the arbitration agreement. However, the lower court determined that the agreement was invalid. The defendant then appealed to a higher court.

On Appeal, the Lower Court’s Decision Is Affirmed

The appellate court agreed that the contract was invalid, although the judges on the panel could not all agree why that was so. Several judges thought that the language containing the arbitration agreement was buried in large blocks of text, making it difficult to see. Other judges took issue with the $5,000 fee imposed by the defendant against those who filed a personal injury case against them. These judges believed that there was no “mutuality” in that specific term, meaning the participant was bound by the agreement, but the defendant was not. This is a requirement for any contract to be valid. Because of the court’s decision, the Aliceas’ claim against the defendant will be permitted to proceed toward trial.

Have You Been Injured in a Pay-to-Play Activity?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured on the property of another party or while engaging in a pay-to-play activity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Many amusement parks, ski resorts, and other pay-to-play activities require participants to sign waivers that limit their rights. However, sometimes these businesses overstep their legal authority by making terms too favorable for themselves. In such cases, a court may disregard the document. To learn more about Virginia personal injury cases, call 703-491-7070 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated premises liability and personal injury attorney.

See More Blog Posts:

A Business’ Obligation to Keep Its Customers Safe, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 17, 2016.

What Happens When an Insurance Company Acts in Bad Faith and Refuses to Settle a Case?, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 12, 2016.

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