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First Court reverses ruling denying H-E-B arbitration in injury suit
Houston
   
 
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HOUSTON – The First Court of Appeals recently reversed a ruling denying H-E-B’s motion to compel arbitration in a personal injury lawsuit.

In 2019, Maria Saenz filed suit against H-E-B (Joe V’s Smart Shop), a nonsubscriber to Texas’ statutory workers’ compensation system, claiming the grocer’s negligence caused her workplace injury. 

While working as a baker for H-E-B, Saenz was struck by a forklift inside the store. Her injuries required back surgery.

Court records show that after Saenz filed suit, HEB moved to compel arbitration under the Work Injury Benefit Plan, which had Saenz’s electric signature.

In response to the motion to compel arbitration, Saenz asserted procedural unconscionability and provided an affidavit in which she averred that she does not read or write English and that she ordinarily relies on her children to translate for her.

She argued that she was pressured to electronically sign the documents in English and did not have time to review the documents or have them translated.

Court records show the trial court denied the motion to compel arbitration, stating on the record that it “found Ms. Saenz to be very credible.”

On appeal, H-E-B argued that it established that Saenz agreed to arbitrate disputes against HEB arising from on-the-job injuries and that her claims fall within the scope of that agreement, and that she failed to establish that her agreement to arbitrate is unenforceable due to procedural unconscionability.

On Oct. 12, the First Court held that Saenz did not demonstrate procedural unconscionability, reversing the trial court.

“HEB’s procedures are not a model of transparency and disclosure, and they can lead a new employee to unwittingly waive the right to a jury trial,” the opinion states. “Nonetheless, we are not presented with shocking evidence of fraud, misrepresentation, or deceit, and we are bound by the policy determinations made by the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Legislature.”

H-E-B is represented by San Antonio law firms Shelton & Valadez and Houston Dunn.

Saenz is represented in part by Roberts Markland.

Appeals case No. 01-20-00850-CV

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