Texas Restaurant Owner Failed to Establish that Employee Had Signed Arbitration Agreement

Arbitration, as an alternative to traditional litigation, is becoming increasingly popular in many different types of conflicts, including disputes between Dallas employers and their employees. While arbitration offers many advantages – flexibility, speed, efficiency, confidentiality, and finality, to name a few – arbitration must be voluntary in order to be enforceable.

Parties may give their consent to arbitration either before or after a conflict arises. In some situations, the parties sign a contract at the beginning of their relationship, agreeing that any disputes between them later on will be arbitrated rather than litigated in the court system.

The burden of proof in a case in which one party seeks to compel arbitration and the other resists it is on the party who wants to arbitrate rather than litigate.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who filed suit against the defendant restaurant owner in the 45th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas, alleging that he had suffered personal injuries while working for the plaintiff and that these injuries occurred due to the defendant’s negligence. The defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claims. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion, and it appealed.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The Fourth Court of Appeals of Texas, San Antonio, Texas, affirmed the district court’s decision. According to the appellate court, the sole issue on appeal was whether the trial court had erred in denying the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. In agreeing with the plaintiff that the defendant had failed to satisfy its burden of establishing that the plaintiff had received notice of the defendant’s arbitration policy, the court found that the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration and the response thereto presented conflicting evidence as to whether the plaintiff received notification of the defendant’s alleged arbitration policy. Thus, the defendant had the burden of proving, at an evidentiary hearing, that the plaintiff had, in fact, received such notice.

Although the defendant presented copies of forms that mentioned its occupational injury plan, these forms did not state whether the plaintiff had been given a copy of the plan, nor did the documents specifically mention the arbitration agreement that the defendant insisted was contained in the occupational injury plan. Given the plaintiff’s sworn affidavit that he did not receive a copy of the plan and was not notified as to the arbitration provision contained therein, the trial court correctly denied the defendant’s motion to arbitrate the plaintiff’s injury claim.

Experienced Employment Law Defense Attorneys in Dallas

If you are a Dallas area employer facing litigation due to a claim brought by a current or former employee (or applicant for employment), the knowledgeable employment litigation and OSHA defense attorneys at Key Harrington Barnes are here to help. For a consultation regarding the legal matter facing your business, call us now at 214-615-7925. Our firm handles business law cases, matters concerning employee relations, employment litigation, government regulation, and union relation issues, as well as real estate law and oil, gas, and mineral law.

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