MOUNT VERNON – Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael O'Malley kept a suit against Edward Jones and Company that belonged in arbitration, Fifth District appeals judges have ruled.
Three judges reversed O'Malley, who held that Jones broker Joseph Delsignore should have called attention to an arbitration provision in an investment contract.
O'Malley declared the provision unconscionable, ruling it didn't bind investors Carroll Bramble and Dawn Bramble.
On appeal, Fifth District judges Melissa Chapman, James Donovan and Stephen Spomer declared it enforceable.
Chapman wrote that "it was not hidden in a maze of print."
"Indeed, the provision was fairly conspicuous," she wrote.
They sent the case back to circuit court for an order compelling arbitration.
It won't return to O'Malley, though. He retired in July and became employed as a plaintiff attorney with Carey and Danis of Clayton, Mo.
Chief Judge John Baricevic assigned it to Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson.
The Brambles invested together at Jones and when they divorced, they didn't remove her as his beneficiary on an annuity.
They didn't really need to remove her, according to Chapman, because Illinois law presumes a beneficiary loses validity through divorce.
He soon died and she sued his estate, to no avail.
She then sued Jones, alleging breach of fiduciary duty.
She claimed Delsignore didn't read through the investment
She claimed he didn't explain the arbitration provision. And, she claimed she wouldn't have signed if she had known she waived rights.
Jones answered that the Brambles signed a form on a single page summarizing the agreement and referring investors to an arbitration provision on page 20.
On page 20, the title of the provision appeared in capital letters and bold face.
That didn't satisfy O'Malley but it satisfied the Fifth District.
Chapman wrote that the form put the Brambles on notice that
signing would bind them to arbitration.
She wrote that Delsignore didn't have to call attention to the provision because the form did.
She wrote that a broker's duty to disclose material facts doesn't require oral discussion of conspicuous written provisions with a competent party.
Jane Matoesian represents Edward Jones and Company.
Michael McGlynn represents Bramble.