JAMES DUHON v. ACTIVELAF LLC SKYZONE LAFAYETTE AND UNDERWRITERS AT LLOYDS LONDON

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Supreme Court of Louisiana.

JAMES DUHON v. ACTIVELAF, LLC, D/B/A SKYZONE LAFAYETTE AND UNDERWRITERS AT LLOYDS, LONDON

No. 2016-CC-0818

    Decided: October 19, 2016

I agree with the majority decision, and write separately to emphasize that I do not view this decision as a rejection of arbitration agreements. To the contrary, Louisiana law favors the enforcement of arbitration agreements. See La. R.S. 9:4201 (Validity of arbitration agreements). Consistent with the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), arbitration agreements must be placed “upon the same footing” as other types of contracts.” Scherk v. Alberto-Culver Co., 417 U.S. 506, 511 (1974); see also 9 U.S.C. § 2. But just as Louisiana law should not create obstacles to the enforceability of arbitration agreements, see AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011) (applying the FAA to preempt a state law condition to the enforceability of an arbitration agreement), neither should Louisiana law create exceptions for arbitration agreements that do not exist for other types of contracts.

Without question, arbitration can be a waiver of the traditional access to our judicial system. And so, applying Aguillard v. Auction Management Corp., 04-2804 (La. 6/29/05), 908 So. 2d 1, this waiver must be in accord with Louisiana contract law, otherwise a party's consent may be called into question. Thus, a business entity or individual seeking to draft a contract that includes an arbitration agreement must meet all of the elements of an enforceable contract.

By concealing the existence of the arbitration agreement, this agreement deprives a party of redress in the justice system. To make a bad situation worse, this agreement does not bind Sky Zone to arbitration, yet it penalizes a Sky Zone patron—but not Sky Zone—for seeking to initiate a lawsuit. These blatant asymmetries exhibit a stunning lack of draftsmanship and fail to adhere to the principles set forth in Aguillard. Accordingly, in my view, this Court is bound to deem this agreement unenforceable.

CRICHTON, J., additionally concurs and assigns reasons.

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