A state appellate court recently issued an opinion stemming from a Florida amusement park injury lawsuit. According to the record, the defendant operates an indoor amusement park that contains trampolines, walls, and zip lines. The plaintiff’s son went to an amusement park with an adult friend of the family. Before entering, the friend signed a “release, assumption of risk, waiver of liability, and indemnification agreement.” The document allowed the friend to “warrant and represent” the document on the minor’s behalf. The boy suffered serious injuries while riding a zipline attraction.
The plaintiff sued the Florida amusement park company, and the company moved to compel arbitration. The defendant contended that the arbitration agreement was valid because the friend had “physical legal custody” of the plaintiff’s son. They argued that any issues surrounding whether the woman had the authority to sign was a matter for arbitration, not trial. The trial court found in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.
On appeal, the court reviewed several issues, including whether a dispute should go to arbitration. There are three main elements that a Florida court will review when making this determination. First, whether a valid arbitration agreement exists, whether an arbitrable issue exists, and whether the party waived the right to arbitration. In Florida, questions regarding contract formation remain a trial court issue. Further, disputes regarding whether parties entered into a valid arbitration agreement is a contract formation question. In this case, the court found that the defendant failed to acknowledge the distinction between contract validity challenges and contract formation questions.