Georgia Court of Appeals Affirms Each New Arbitration Provision a Patient Signs Constitutes A New Agreement

The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision to deny Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration where Plaintiff previously signed an arbitration provision, but denied signing a subsequent, albeit identical, provision to arbitrate.

Plaintiff visited the hospital several times for unrelated procedures and was presented with the arbitration provision on each visit. On the March 2018 and April 2018 visits, Plaintiff did not sign under the provision. On the May 21, 2018 visit Plaintiff did sign the provision. On the June 4, 2018 and August 2018 visits, Plaintiff did not sign the provision. The August 2018 visit is the visit at issue.

Plaintiff alleged he suffered injuries due to Defendants professional negligence during the August 2018 surgical procedure. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration based on an arbitration provision in a consent Plaintiff signed during an earlier visit to the same hospital for treatment unrelated to the visit at issue in this lawsuit. The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion stating “re-presenting an arbitration agreement to a previously admitted patient constitutes an abandonment of any prior arbitration agreement signed by that patient.”

On appeal, Defendants argued Plaintiffs signature on the arbitration provision dated May 21, 2018 applied to all future admission. The Court disagreed, holding that Georgia law require us to give meaning to every term of a contract. The Defendant’s representation of the arbitration agreement at each visit constitutes an intent to offer the readmitted patient a new opportunity to accept or reject the arbitration. The Court held the each presentation of the arbitration agreement was an abandonment of the previous agreement and a new offer to either accept or reject arbitration.

Take-home: The most recent arbitration provision that a patient signed is the controlling agreement, regardless of previous visits at the same hospital and regardless of patient’s prior rejections or acceptions.   

Emory Healthcare, Inc. v. Farrell, S.E. 2d, 2021 WL 2217060 (2021).