Negligence Claims Against Funeral Home By Decedent’s Children Were Arbitrable, As They Were Third Party Beneficiaries Of The Arbitration Agreement

In SCI Texas Funeral Services, L.L.C. v. Montoya, a Texas court of appeals addressed a funeral home’s motion to compel arbitration of claims brought against it arising out of the following alleged facts:

“Orlando [Odell Montoya] passed away and his remains were taken to Garcia & Trevino Funeral Home of Mercedes, Texas. After visitation and a memorial service, the parties and mourners proceeded to Restlawn Memorial Cemetery in La Feria, Texas, for a graveside ceremony. There, while the family was placing flowers on Orlando’s coffin, the lowering device for the coffin failed and the coffin fell and flipped into the grave. The maintenance workers attempted to raise the coffin, however, it fell a second time and cracked open. After the mourners departed, the workers removed the casket and Orlando’s remains, placed Orlando’s remains in a ‘shed,’ and ultimately placed his remains in a second casket.”

Reversing the lower court, the court of appeals held that an arbitration agreement signed by the decedent’s widow bound their children. Even though the children were not signatories to the agreement, they were third party beneficiaries, and thus their claims were required to be arbitrated.

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