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Arbitrator's unavailability will not stop arbitration from starting

September 25, 2013

The Indiana Court of Appeals has found an arbitration agreement’s “plain language” trumps a woman’s attempt to stop the alternative dispute resolution process.

Evelyn Hendricks, through her health care representative, signed a voluntary agreement for arbitration when she moved into Lane House.

Later, when she filed suit against the health care facility for negligence, Hendricks argued arbitration would not be possible. She pointed to a 2009 consent decree the National Arbitration Forum had entered into with the Minnesota attorney general which barred it from conducting any future arbitration involving disputes between consumers and businesses.

The trial court agreed and denied Lane House’s motion to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration.

Reversing the denial in Anonymous, M.D. and Life Care Centers of America, Inc., d/b/a Lane House v. Evelyn Hendricks, 79A04-1304-CT-185, the Court of Appeals found Hendricks’ assertion overlooked a key element in the arbitration agreement she signed.

NAF is named as the preferred entity to conduct the arbitration in the Lane House agreement but the document also contains provisions for another alternative dispute resolution service or method to be used if NAF is unavailable.

Since the agreement provides for an alternate entity or method, the Court of Appeals held that NAF was not integral to the arbitration. Its current inability to serve as the arbitrator between Hendricks and Lane House does not void the agreement.•
 

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