Question: Brown turned 16 on May 18 2001 and one week

Brown turned 16 on May 18, 2001, and one week later, applied for a position as a server at Ryan's Steakhouse in North Charleston, South Carolina. In connection with her application for employment, a manager at Ryan's gave Brown various forms to fill out. Brown returned to her car where her great aunt and guardian, Gassaway, was waiting for her. Because Brown was a minor, the forms required the signature of her legal guardian. Both Brown and Gassaway signed a "Job Application Agreement to Arbitration of Employment Related Disputes." The arbitration agreement provided that "any employment-related dispute between the Company, me and/or other signatories which would otherwise be brought in state or federal court will be brought ONLY in the EDSI arbitration forum and under EDSI Rules and Procedures." Gassaway had cataracts, had suffered two strokes, and for several years had been unable to perform most daily tasks, including cooking for herself driving, or answering the phone and taking a message. In one notable incident, Gassaway left the house in the middle of the night and went to a neighboring house but could not find her way home. A sworn and authenticated letter from a physician who had served as Gassaway's doctor for over 15 years stated the opinion that Gassaway had been in a state of physical and mental decline for three to four years. He chronicled several conditions Gassaway suffered from, including "atrophy of the brain," and concluded that these conditions would have affected her judgment and rendered her incapable of understanding any contract on May 25, 2001. Brown began work as a cashier in June 2001. In late July, she was promoted to a server position and worked in that position until her termination in September 2001. She alleged that within her first weeks of employment, the manager of her restaurant made suggestive statements and obscene gestures at her and touched her inappropriately. She also alleged that the manager retaliated against her for resisting his advances. She brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ryan's, and Ryan's claimed that the lawsuit should be dismissed or compelled to arbitration because of the arbitration agreement that Brown and her guardian signed. Brown claimed that the arbitration agreement was invalid because of lack of capacity. Was it?

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  • CreatedJuly 16, 2014
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