A state appellate court has ruled that an arbitrator will determine a dispute between a Merrill Lynch brokerage house and a customer who legally challenged a form that new clients are asked to sign.
Paul Thompson of Garden Grove said he did not realize that a form he signed when he opened an account with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith required that disputes be sent to an arbitrator.
Thompson invested his life savings of $55,000 with the firm's office in Orange two years ago, his lawyer, Michael A. Oswald, said.
His money had been mishandled, Thompson alleged. He filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court, alleging fraud.
The brokerage firm tried to force Thompson into arbitration, but a Superior Court judge ruled that he could pursue his lawsuit. The 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana ruled for Merrill Lynch on Tuesday.