Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court SJC May Decide Whether Arbitration Agreements Cover Individual Employees Who Are Not Signatories to the Agreements.

Petitions for certiorari are currently being considered by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in two cases that will ask the court to decide whether arbitration agreements cover individual employees who are not signatories to the agreements.

 

On March 5, 2009, the SJC  will hear oral arguments in Warfield v. Beth Israel Deconess Med. Ctr. regarding whether non-signatory agents of a hosptial are entitled to compel arbitration pursuant to an employment agreement.  The physician plaintiff agreed in the employment contract to arbitration with defendant hospital.  The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant hospital and two employees who were not parties to the plaintiff’s employment agreement.  The defendants’ motion to compel arbitration was denied by the Superior Court, and the decision was affirmed upon appellate review.  The court held that because the employment agreement did not specifically reference any duty of agents, any claim brought against those individuals would not be arbitrable. 


 

Similarly, in Constantino v. Frechette, plaintiff decedent signed an arbitration agreement with defendant nursing home.  Plaintiff then brought claims against defendant and numerous nurse employees who sought to compel arbitration.  The court allowed defendants’ motion to dismiss and compel arbitration with regard to defendant nursing home, but it denied the motion with respect to the individually named nurse defendants.  The plaintiff dismissed her case against defendant nursing home and filed a motion to amend adding additional individual nurse defendants, who were also denied for their motions to compel arbitration.  In a December 2008 opinion, the 

Appeals Court
affirmed the orders of the trial court, holding that the arbitration agreement between a nursing home and patient did not compel arbitration for claims against the nursing home’s employees.  The case is currently pending for further appellate review with the SJC. 

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