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Sunday, September 20, 2020

New Tennessee Health Care Liability Action Opinion (Nursing Home): Trial Court's Denial of Motion to Compel Arbitration Reversed on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Stokes v. Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, No. W2019-01983-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 15, 2020).  The syllabus reads:

In this health care liability action, the defendant moved to compel arbitration based upon an agreement entered into between the parties that provided for binding arbitration. The plaintiff opposed the defendant’s motion, taking specific umbrage at a provision in the parties’ agreement that indicated the expenses of arbitration would, by default, be subject to a [fifty-fifty] split. Contending that he was unable to pay for arbitration expenses, the plaintiff opposed enforcement of the arbitration agreement by advancing a cost-based unconscionability defense. Although the defendant acted to relieve the plaintiff of this asserted burden by offering to pay for the costs of arbitration, the trial court held that the subject fee-splitting provision in the agreement was unconscionable and denied the motion to enforce the agreement and compel arbitration. For the reasons stated herein, while we agree with the trial court that, under the facts of this case, the fee-splitting provision was unconscionable, we hold that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration.

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: This opinion offers a good explanation of arbitration agreements in Tennessee and whether they are enforceable or not.  It also discusses severability in contract interpretation.  It is worth reading in my opinion.  

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