24 Fla. L. Weekly Supp. 136a
Online Reference: FLWSUPP 2402TYNE
Torts — Premises liability — Negligent misrepresentation — Arbitration — Motion to dismiss former professional football player’s claims against team related to MRSA outbreak at team training facility in favor of arbitration is denied — Claims premised on negligent maintenance of facility and misrepresentations regarding sanitization of facility have no contractual nexus to NFL player contract or NFL collective bargaining agreement, but instead emanate from common law duties that professionals and owners or lessees of commercial premises owe to invitees, third parties, and public
LAWRENCE TYNES, Plaintiff, v. BUCCANEERS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, d/b/a Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a Delaware Limited Partnership, and FIRST ALLIED DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, a Nevada Limited Partnership, Defendants. Circuit Court, 13th Judicial Circuit in and for Hillsborough County, Civil Division. Case No. 15-CA-004177. Division G. March 21, 2016. Mark Wolfe, Judge. Counsel: Stephen F. Rosenthal and Matthew Weinshall, Podhurst Orseck, P.A., Miami,; and Bradford R. Sohn, The Brad Sohn Law Firm, PLLC, Coral Gables, for Plaintiff. Reed L. Russell and Michael S. Hooker, Phelps Dunbar, LLP, Tampa; and Daniel L. Nash, Gregory W. Knopp, and James E. Tysse, Akin Gump Strass Hauer & Feld LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant.
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT BUCCANEERS
LIMITED PARTNERSHIP’S MOTION TO
DISMISS IN FAVOR OF ARBITRATION
THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Buccaneers Limited Partnership’s (hereinafter “the Bucs”) Motion to Dismiss in Favor of Arbitration. The Court heard oral argument on March 2, 2016. After review of the motion, the response, the record, and being otherwise advised in this matter, the Court must deny the Bucs’ motion to dismiss because no contractual nexus exists between Plaintiff’s claims and the National Football League (NFL) Player Contract and the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Plaintiff, a former professional football player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, initiated the instant suit alleging a premises liability claim (Count I) and a negligent misrepresentation claim (Count II) related to an outbreak of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”) at the Bucs’ training facility, One Bucs Place. The Bucs removed the case to federal court based on complete preemption under the Labor Management Relations Act arguing that Plaintiff’s claims fall within the CBA. Judge Moody of the United States Middle District Court of Florida, however, disagreed with Defendant concluding that Plaintiff’s claims “were not related in any way to the CBA,” but, rather, “related solely to the manner in which Defendant negligently managed the condition of the Facility.” Tynes v. Buccaneers Ltd. P’ship, No. 8:15-CV-1594-T-30AEP, 2015 WL 5680135, at *1 (M.D. Fla. 2015). Accordingly, the case was sent back to this Court, where Defendant still contends that Plaintiff’s claims are subject to the mandatory arbitration provisions of the CBA and the NFL Player Contract.
Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s claims are arbitrable because they constitute a dispute involving “the interpretation of, application of, or compliance with, any provision of” the CBA. (See CBA, art. 43 § I). Defendant cites to various provisions in the CBA related to “medical care,” “rehabilitative care,” and employee benefits to argue that Plaintiff’s claims have a contractual nexus to the CBA.1 Plaintiff, however, argues that his claims have nothing to do with either the medical and rehabilitative care he may have received at the facility or employee benefits. Rather, Plaintiff contends his claims are premised upon the Bucs’ negligent maintenance of the facility and its representations regarding the sanitization of the facility to prevent the spread of infection. Finally, Plaintiff argues that Judge Moody’s scope-of-arbitration analysis is persuasive because the inquiry under Florida law is substantially similar to the federal court’s analysis.
To determine whether a tort claim falls within the scope of a broad arbitration provision, the general inquiry in Florida is whether there is a “significant relationship” or “contractual nexus” between the claim and the contract. Jackson v. Shakespeare Found., Inc., 108 So. 3d 587, 593 (Fla. 2013).
A contractual nexus exists between a claim and a contract if the claim presents circumstances in which the resolution of the disputed issue requires either reference to, or construction of, a portion of the contract. More specifically, a claim has a nexus to a contract and arises from the terms of the contract if it emanates from an inimitable duty created by the parties’ unique contractual relationship.
Jackson, 108 So. 3d at 593. However, “a claim does not have a nexus to a contract if it pertains to the breach of a duty otherwise imposed by law or in recognition of public policy, such as a duty under the general common law owed not only to the contracting parties but also to third parties and the public.” Id.
Here, while recognizing that a valid written agreement to arbitrate exists and the courts generally favor such provisions, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s claims have no contractual nexus to the terms of the CBA or NFL Player Contract because they neither “emanate from any inimitable duty created by the parties’ contract” nor require reference to, construction of, application of, or interpretation of any provision in the CBA. Indeed, the Court finds Judge Moody’s order and other NFL staphylococcus infection cases to be highly persuasive in considering the issues raised in Defendant’s motion. See Tynes, 2015 WL 5680135 (finding that Plaintiff’s claims “are not related in any way to the CBA, premised on any duty provided for in the CBA, nor require interpretation of the CBA”); see also Bentley v. Cleveland Browns, 958 N.E. 2d 585 (Ohio App. Ct. 2011); Jurevicius v. Cleveland Browns Football Co., LLC, No. 1:09 CV 1803, 2010 WL 8461220 (N.D. Ohio 2010).
Furthermore, even if Judge Moody’s order did not address whether Plaintiff’s claims involve a dispute regarding “rehabilitative care,” the Court still finds that no contractual nexus exists between Plaintiff’s claims and any contractual provisions regarding either “rehabilitative care” or, for that matter, “medical care” and employee benefits. Again, Plaintiff’s claims are not based upon the Bucs’ medical staff committing medical malpractice or breaching their duties to provide adequate medical and rehabilitative care, an area that the CBA likely covers. See Tynes, 2015 WL 5680135 at *5. Rather, Plaintiff alleges specifically that the Bucs breached three of its general common law duties: (1) to exercise reasonable care in maintaining the premises, (2) to inspect and warn invitees about the dangerous conditions on the premises, and (3) to provide accurate information regarding the premises’ cleanliness. See id at *4-5; see also Amended Complaint at 5-6, 9-10. Indeed, as Judge Moody highlighted,
[T]he CBA is silent with respect to NFL clubs’ maintenance of their training facilities. It is also silent with respect to any duty to warn invitees, including players, of dangerous, unsanitary conditions on the premises, or to provide information concerning infection-control policies in place at team training facilities.
Tynes, 2015 WL 5680135 at *5 (emphasis added); cf. BKD Twenty-One Management Company, Inc. v. Delsordo, 127 So. 3d 527, 531-32 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) [37 Fla. L. Weekly D2451c] (holding that the plaintiff’s premises liability claims were arbitrable because the broad arbitration clause referred to any claims arising out of the “the Establishment,” i.e., the premises, facility, or place of business). As such, Plaintiff’s claims are not within the scope of the CBA and NFL Player Contract, but, rather, they pertain to general common law duties professionals and owners or lessees of commercial premises owe to invitees, third parties, and the public. See Tynes, 2015 WL 5680135 at *4-5.
Finally, regarding the arbitration grievance Plaintiff filed in 2013 pursuant to the CBA and then voluntarily withdrew in 2015, the Court finds that it may not consider Plaintiff’s grievance because the Court’s review in a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration is limited to the four corners of the complaint and its attachments. See Jackson, 108 So. 3d at 592-93. Even if the Court considered the grievance, such a filing would not preclude Plaintiff from asserting his right to bring any legal claims that are outside the purview of the mandatory arbitration provisions of the CBA and NFL Player Contract.
It is therefore ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendant Buccaneers Limited Partnership’s Motion to Dismiss in Favor of Arbitration is hereby DENIED.
1See articles 30, 39, 41, 43, 45, 53, 60, 61 of Collective Bargaining Agreement and paragraph 9 of the NFL Player Contract.
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