Global Travel Marketing, Inc. v. Shea, 2005 WL 1576244, 30 Fla. L. Weekly S511 (Fla. July 7, 2005) (Fourth DCA Reversed)

In a case that is sure to be of interest to personal injury attorneys (and the probate/guardianship attorneys they work with), the Florida Supreme Court reversed the Fourth DCA and held that an arbitration agreement incorporated into a commercial travel contract is enforceable against the minor’s estate in a tort action arising from the contract. Although not central to the Supreme Court’s ruling, the Court did provide the following helpful summary of current Florida law regarding when legal guardianships must be established to settle a minor’s civil claims:

Under section 2004->Ch0744->Section%20301#0744.301″>744.301(2), Florida Statutes (2004), parents, acting as the natural guardians of their minor children, [FN6] may settle their children’s claims for amounts up to $15,000. A net settlement greater than $15,000 on behalf of a minor requires establishment of a legal guardianship. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20387#0744.387″>744.387(2), Fla. Stat. (2004). If a legal guardian and a minor have potentially adverse interests, or if otherwise necessary, the trial court may, for a settlement greater than $15,000, and must, for a settlement greater than $25,000, appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the minor’s interests. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20301#0744.301″>744.301(4)(a); Fla. Stat. (2004). A presuit settlement on behalf of a minor requires court authorization, which may be given if the court determines that the settlement is in the minor’s best interest. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20387#0744.387″>744.387(1), Fla. Stat. (2004). Settlement of a pending claim also requires court approval. See § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20387#0744.387″>744.387(3)(a), Fla. Stat. (2004).

FN6. For children of divorced parents, “the natural guardianship shall belong to the parent to whom the custody of the child is awarded.” § 2004->Ch0744->Section%20301#0744.301″>744.301(1), Fla. Stat. (2004).

For those interested in delving into the underlying arguments made to the Florida Supreme Court in this case, the following briefs are available on-line: