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Thunderdome 2017: Read it or don’t, but you still are bound by what you sign

Under the law of the Thundedome, if you bust a deal then you face the wheel. That’s clear enough.

Recently the Fifth Court of Appeals at Dallas paraphrased and expanded Thunderdome law in a case involving an arbitration clause and allegations by the employee that he did not read or speak English, and allegations that employer tricked the employee into signing an acknowledgment that the employee understood the employer’s policies and procedures (which included the arbitration provision).

The case is MiCocina Ltd. d/b/a Taco Diner v. Jose Balderas-Villanueva.  The case has some good Thunderdome-esque contract law sound bites like: “A party to an arms-length transaction is charged with the obligation of reading what he signs,” and “It will not do for a man to enter into a contract, and, when called upon to respond to its obligations, to say that he did not read it when he signed it, or did not know what it contained.”

The case also is significant because the Dallas Court of Appeals enforced the arbitration provision, even though the employer reserved the right to modify or terminate the provisions of the policy manual, and even though the employee alleged that the employer misrepresented the contents of the policy.

From time to time I get questions from clients about whether they are bound by terms they did not know about in a contract that they signed.  The Dallas Court of Appeals says yes. There are exceptions to the general rule, but exceptions are not automatic.

If you have an arbitration clause and you want to ensure that it stands up to judicial review, this is an excellent case to evaluate whether your arbitration clause is in step with the Dallas Court of Appeals’ most recent statement of the law.

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