Arbitration: Surgeon’s “Hidden” Arbitration Agreement Breached Fiduciary Duty Owed to Patient

April 5, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​The Supreme Court of North Carolina declared unenforceable a predispute arbitration agreement between a patient and his surgical care providers, finding that the surgeon's professional practice failed to fully disclose the agreement and its consequences to the patient, to whom it owed a fiduciary duty.

At the patient's first visit to the defendants' office, he received "intake forms" and "registration paperwork" that he was told concerned his personal and medical history, health insurance, and payment-related issues. After filling out the forms, he signed all documents on the signature lines where indicated, "as a matter of formality," without having read them. Among them was an arbitration agreement binding the patient to final, private arbitration of any dispute arising from or relating to healthcare services provided by the surgeon, his professional corporation, its employees, physician members, or agents. The agreement also set the terms for the conduct of arbitration, and stated...

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