Calif. Court Reverses Order Denying Petition to Compel Arbitration

Lewis Brisbois recently prevailed in an appeal from the trial court’s order denying a petition to compel arbitration.

The plaintiff resided in the defendants’ residential care facility for the elderly. Upon admission to the facility, the plaintiff signed a resident agreement and a separate voluntary arbitration agreement. After the plaintiff filed his complaint, the facility petitioned to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the facility’s petition, finding that an integration clause in the resident agreement barred consideration of the separate arbitration agreement. The arbitration agreement was not part of or incorporated into the residency agreement because it was not an attachment and was not referenced. The court found the integration clause was dispositive.

On appeal, we argued that the separate, contemporaneously executed arbitration agreement was enforceable. The resident agreement stated it was the entire agreement regarding the resident’s stay in the community, but was silent as to dispute resolution. The surrounding circumstances and nature of the agreement demonstrated that the parties did not intend for the residency agreement to supersede the arbitration agreement.

In a published opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s order and remanded the case back to the trial court for a ruling on the plaintiff’s remaining challenges to enforcement of the agreement. The court determined that the integration clause did not preclude proof of the arbitration agreement. The court explained that a review of the timing of the two agreements as well as their contents established that the residency agreement was not intended as the final and complete expression of the parties’ agreement. By its terms, the integration clause superseded prior agreements, but the arbitration agreement was signed after the residency agreement. Additionally, the arbitration agreement provided that it applied to claims regarding the validity or enforceability of the residency agreement. Thus, the trial court erred in concluding that the integration clause in the residency agreement precluded proof of the later signed arbitration agreement.

Los Angeles Partners George Nowotny and Jeff Healey and San Diego Appellate Partners Lann McIntyre and Brittany Bartold Sutton handled the matter.

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