Texas Supreme Court Finds Erotic Dancer and Club Had “Meeting of the Minds” to Enforce Arbitration Agreement

Carlton Fields
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Stephanie Sotero Hernandez was killed in a car accident after leaving work at Baby Dolls Topless Saloons Inc. Hernandez’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against the club alleging it continued serving alcohol to Hernandez’s co-worker, the driver of the car, after knowing she was intoxicated. The club moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration clause in its contract with Hernandez. A Texas court of appeals affirmed a trial court order denying the club’s motion, finding the terminology in the contract was “uncertain” and lacked “definiteness,” thus invalidating any agreement to arbitrate. The Texas Supreme Court reversed.

Hernandez’s estate argued the motion should be denied because there was never a “meeting of the minds” between Hernandez and the club. The court disagreed, finding that to conclude otherwise, as did the court of appeals, ignores that Hernandez and the club operated under the contract on a weekly basis for nearly two years before her untimely death. The court therefore rejected the notion that the parties never entered a valid contract. Hernandez’s estate also argued that the arbitration clause itself was limited in scope and inapplicable, but the court again disagreed, emphasizing the bolded and capitalized clause in the contract explicitly delegating gateway arbitrability issues of this sort to the arbitrator. The court thus reversed and remanded with instruction to grant the club’s motion to compel arbitration.

Baby Dolls Topless Saloons, Inc. v. Sotero, No. 20-0782 (Tex. Mar. 18, 2022).

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