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SA-PG-Ocala, LLC v. Stokes, 935 So. 2d 1242 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006)

Defendant nursing home moved to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion, and the nursing home appealed. The agreement provided that controversies would be arbitrated pursuant to Alternative Dispute Resolution Service Rules of Procedure for Arbitration of the American Health Lawyers Association. Rule 6.06 provided that the “arbitrator may not award consequential, exemplary, incidental, punitive or special damages against a party unless the arbitrator determines, based on the record, that there is clear and convincing evidence that the party against whom such damages are awarded is guilty of conduct evincing an intentional or reckless disregard for the rights of another party or fraud, actual or presumed.” In affirming the trial court, the court found that requiring clear and convincing evidence would dismantle the protections afforded nursing home residents by the legislature and would be contrary to the Nursing Home Residents Act. The nursing home cited Rollins, supra, arguing that the arbitrator should determine whether the remedial limitations render the contract unenforceable; the court disagreed, finding that in Rollins the court initially determined whether the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and this agreement did not survive that threshold inquiry. Defendant then argued that the AHLA rules could be severed. The Court held otherwise since there was no severability clause and the rules were incorporated into the arbitration agreement.

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