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Broemmer v. Abortion Services of Phoenix

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Melinda Broemmer (Plaintiff) challenged the validity of an “Agreement to Arbitrate” that she signed prior to undergoing a clinical abortion by Abortion Services of Phoenix (clinic).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Adhesion contracts will not be enforced unless they are conscionable and within the reasonable expectations of the parties.   

    Facts.

    Plaintiff and her mother went to the clinic expecting information about the pros and cons of an abortion, but were instead given three forms to fill out, one of which was the Agreement to Arbitrate.  Plaintiff completed all three forms in less than five minutes, and returned the next day to have an abortion performed by Dr. Otto.  As a result of the procedure, Plaintiff suffered a punctured uterus that required medical treatment. 

    The Plaintiff later filed a malpractice complaint against Dr. Otto and the clinic (Defendants), and the Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because arbitration was required.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendants.  The court of appeals held that although the contract was one of adhesion, it was enforceable because it did not fall outside of Plaintiff’s reasonable expectations and was not unconscionable.  

    Issue.

                Was the Agreement to Arbitrate enforceable against the Plaintiff?

    Held.

    Reversed and remanded.  The Agreement to Arbitrate was unenforceable against the Plaintiff, as it fell outside of her reasonable expectations when signing it.

    ·         Adhesion contracts are generally standardized forms offered on a “take it or leave it” basis.  The standard form signed by the Plaintiff was an adhesion contract, and the terms of service were not negotiable. 

    ·         The Plaintiff did not recall signing the form, it was never explained to her, nor was it the clinic’s policy to explain it to the patients.  There was no conspicuous or knowing waiver of the fundamental right to a jury trial. 

    ·         The Plaintiff was under a great deal of emotional stress, had only a high school education and was not experienced in commercial matters.   

    Dissent.

    ·         “Agreement to Arbitrate” was in bold capital letters, clearly legible and not hidden from the Plaintiff’s view.  It therefore could not have fallen outside the Plaintiff’s reasonable expectations when signing it.    

    Concurrence.

    None

    Discussion.

    The majority found the adhesion contract unenforceable against the Plaintiff because it was a standardized form that she had to sign in order to receive services, the consequences of which fell outside her reasonable expectations.  


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