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Ambiguous Signature Line Potentially Voids Arbitration Clause

IStock_000014221107MediumBy Howard S. Suskin

An employment agreement contained an arbitration clause, and the employees signed it.   But the court sided with the employees’ argument, at least at the pleading stage, that they may not have agreed to arbitrate their claims, because their signatures were directly under a bolded sentence that read, “I certify, by my signature below, that I have received a copy of the Mortgage Sales Commission Plan, which has been provided to me.”  The employees argued that their signatures simply acknowledged receipt of the Mortgage Sales Commission Plan, not their intent to be bound by the terms of the arbitration clause contained in the document.  The court concluded that because the contract is susceptible to two logical constructions, the court could not find at the motion to dismiss stage that the employees had agreed to arbitration.   The court noted that because the employer had provided the employees with the agreement, any ambiguous language would be construed against the employer as the drafter of the contract.   Ranieri v. Banco Santander, No. 15-3740 (D. N.J. April 4, 2016).