SW Legal studies in Business

Decedents Not Bound by Arbitration Agreement
Description

Ohio high court held that the decedents of a worker killed on the job were not bound by an alternate dispute resolution agreement the worker had signed. That agreement bound him, but not his heirs. They may sue for wrongful death in court.

Topic

Alternate Dispute Resolution

Key Words

Arbitration; Employment; Death; Survivors

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Peters worked for Columbus Steel Castings. He signed an employment agreement that stated “I understand and agree that mediation, and if unsuccessful, arbitration under the Dispute Resolution Plan will be my sole and exclusive remedy for any legal claims or disputes I may have against the Company regarding my employment.” The Plan stated that it applied to “the heirs, beneficiaries, successors, and assigns” of the employee. Peters was killed on the job. His widow brought a wrongful death suit against Columbus. The company moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the matter required resolution under the terms of the Plan agreed to by Peters. The district court ruled against Columbus. It appealed. The appeals court affirmed. Columbus appealed again.

Decision

Affirmed. The wrongful death action was not subject to arbitration. Even though Peters signed an agreement to resolve disputes under the Plan, he was the only party bound by that agreement. Peters’ widow did not sign the agreement and cannot be forced to abide by the terms of the Plan. Arbitration is a matter of contract, and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he or she has not agreed to submit. A decedent cannot bind his or her beneficiaries to arbitrate their wrongful-death claims. Peters’ widow has a separate cause of action that can go to litigation.

Citation

Peters v. Columbus Steel Castings Co., 873 N.E.2d 1258 (Sup. Ct., Ohio, 2007)

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