Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's ruling that an arbitration clause found in Walmart.com's terms of use was unenforceable against purchasers of gift cards. In this case, plaintiffs filed suit against Walmart after gift cards they purchased turned out to be worthless because third parties tampered with, and stole the funds on, the gift cards. Walmart sought to compel arbitration based on a notation on the back of the gift cards directing purchasers to see Walmart.com for complete terms.The court concluded, under the point-of-purchase theory, that the parties did not enter into a binding arbitration agreement at the moment plaintiffs purchased their gift cards because Walmart did not state that it wished to have the arbitration agreement bind the parties at the moment of purchase. Rather, the arbitration provision states that a customer accepts arbitration only by using or accessing the Walmart Sites. While the parties do not dispute that this case involves a browsewrap agreement, the court concluded that material disputes of fact exists on the question of whether the parties agreed to arbitration. The court explained that material disputes exist regarding whether plaintiffs used the website, whether the design of the website was sufficient to give a reasonable browser notice of the arbitration, and whether the language on the card was sufficient to put the buyer on notice. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Foster v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgment of the superior court dismissing as untimely Plaintiff's application to vacate an arbitration award, holding that the thirty-day limitation period set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-420(b) applied to Plaintiff's application to vacate.The trial court concluded that Plaintiff's application to vacate an arbitration award rendered in favor of Defendants was untimely under section 52-420(b) because the application was filed more than thirty days after Plaintiff received notice of the arbitration award. The appellate court affirmed. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the appellate court erred in concluding that its application to vacate the arbitration award was governed by section 52-420(b), in contravention of a private agreement between the parties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court properly held that section 52-420(b) applied to Plaintiff's application to vacate. View "A Better Way Wholesale Autos, Inc. v. Saint Paul" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion confirming an Indian arbitration award and enjoined further litigation. In this case, after defendant secured an arbitral award for his maritime injuries, he continued to pursue litigation against the alleged wrongdoers and disputes that there was an enforceable agreement to arbitrate at all.The court rejected defendant's contention that the district court lost its jurisdiction to enforce the award in 2002, when it remanded the pre-arbitration suit to state court. Rather, the court concluded that the remand order lacked preclusive effect and the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to confirm the arbitral award. The court further concluded that it was precluded from from revisiting the issue of whether the deed contains an enforceable arbitration clause. Likewise, defendant's argument that Neptune's signature was required would have fared no better in this court. Finally, the court concluded that the state court's ruling is preclusive on the question of whether the district court erred in barring him from litigating against Talmidge, American Eagle, and Britannia because only Neptune was a party to the deed. View "Neptune Shipmanagement Services PTE, Ltd. v. Dahiya" on Justia Law

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Timothy and Rebecca Hillhouse entered into a contract with Chris Cook Construction for the construction of their home. The contract contained an arbitration provision mandating that arbitration be conducted before a forum that was unavailable at the time the contract was executed. The trial court entered an order compelling arbitration and appointing an arbitrator. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in so doing: because the forum was a contract requirement, the arbitration provision was unenforceable, and appointing an arbitrator required courts to reform the contractual agreement between the parties. Judgment was reversed and the trial court’s order compelling arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hillhouse v. Chris Cook Construction, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Caballero, who reads and writes only in Spanish, signed a two-page “RESIDENT FACILITY ARBITRATION AGREEMENT” when his mother, Maria, was admitted to Premier Care. The Arbitration Agreement is in English. Three years after signing the agreement Caballero and his siblings brought a wrongful death action against Premier Care and others. In denying Premier Care’s petition to compel arbitration, the trial court found it had failed to sufficiently inform Caballero of the Arbitration Agreement’s contents.The court of appeal reversed. A party who does not understand English sufficiently to comprehend the contents of a contract in that language is required to “have . . . it read or explained to him.” Caballero signed the Arbitration Agreement notwithstanding his limited English skills and that neither Caballero nor any family member provided evidence of the circumstances surrounding the signing. The Premier Care representative also had no specific recollection of the transaction, so there is no evidence that Caballero either requested assistance in understanding the document or was prevented from obtaining such assistance. The Arbitration Agreement complies with the requirements of Code of Civil Procedure section 1295 for arbitration clauses in medical service contracts and “is not a contract of adhesion, nor unconscionable nor otherwise improper.” View "Caballero v. Premier Care Simi Valley, LLC" on Justia Law

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After Holdings defaulted on a loan to purchase a commercial aircraft, Banc filed suit alleging that Holdings breached the terms of the loan documents in various respects. Banc also alleged it had a right to sell the aircraft in the possession of Jet Edge as collateral for the loan and to recover money owed by Jet Edge to Holdings based on a subordination agreement. Furthermore, Banc asserted claims for breach of the aircraft usage agreement and conversion. The trial court granted Holdings and Jet Edge's petition to compel arbitration, finding that the American Arbitration Association (AAA) rules provided for delegation of the determination of whether the parties' dispute arose out of the arbitration clause and thus the arbitrator should decide whether Banc's claims were arbitrable.The Court of Appeal granted Banc's petition for writ of mandate compelling the trial court to vacate its order granting Holdings's petition to compel arbitration. The court agreed with Banc that the trial court erred in relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales, Inc. (2019) ___ U.S. ___ [139 S.Ct. 524, 529]. The court explained that the court, in Schein, considered who should decide whether the parties' dispute arising from a specific contract with an arbitration clause was arbitrable. In this case, however, the question on Holdings's petition to compel arbitration was whether the parties agreed to arbitrate their dispute over the loan documents, which did not have arbitration clauses, a question the court must decide in the first instance. View "Banc of California, NA v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Wyoming Cardiopulmonary Services's (WCS) motion to dismiss this appeal of the district court's confirmation of the decision of an arbitration panel concluding that the parties' non-compete agreement was enforceable if modified and reversed the confirmation of the panel's decision, holding that the panel made a manifest error of law.Dr. Michel Skaf, a cardiologist, signed a non-compete agreement when he became a shareholder in WCS. After WCS terminated Dr. Skaf for cause, he set up his own practice. WCS subsequently brought this complaint and a motion to compel arbitration. The panel found that the covenant not to compete was enforceable if modified and rewrote the agreement. The district court confirmed the panel's decision to enforce the covenant not to compete and entered judgment of $193,000. The Supreme Court reversed and vacated the award, holding that the panel made a manifest error of law in violation of public policy in its review and revision of the covenant not to compete. View "Skaf v. Wyoming Cardiopulmonary Services, P.C." on Justia Law

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In this dispute over internet names, DotConnect appealed to ICANN's internal dispute resolution program and told the arbitrators they should grant it seven procedural advantages during the arbitration—advantages like interim relief and an independent standard of review. The arbitrators accepted DotConnect's arguments and gave DotConnect the advantages it sought, but the arbitrators did not award the .africa name to DotConnect. ICANN ultimately rejected DotConnect and awarded ZA the rights to .africa. DotConnect then filed suit against ICANN in Los Angeles Superior Court, where the trial court ruled against DotConnect on grounds of judicial estoppel.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's application of judicial estoppel and concluded that DotConnect has estopped itself from suing in court by convincing ICANN's arbitrators DotConnect could not sue in court. In this case, DotConnect took two contrary positions; DotConnect took these positions in quasi-judicial and judicial settings; DotConnect used its initial position—"we cannot sue in court"—to persuade the panel to award DotConnect seven legal victories; DotConnect's positions are totally inconsistent; DotConnect did not take its initial position as the result of fraud, ignorance, or mistake; and the trial court had an ample basis to decide, in its discretion, to apply the doctrine of judicial estoppel to this case. The court rejected DotConnect's arguments to the contrary. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment in all respects and awarded costs to respondents. View "DotConnectAfrica Trust v. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers" on Justia Law

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After an arbitrator awarded money damages in favor of plaintiffs and against Terminix, plaintiffs filed a motion to confirm with the district court. The district court ordered Terminix to respond, but Terminix opted to forego any substantive opposition to the motion and instead asserted what it believed was its procedural right to file a separate motion to vacate any time within three months. Terminix filed its motion to vacate after the district court's deadline to oppose confirmation and the district court granted the motion to confirm as substantively unopposed and struck the motion to vacate as untimely.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting the motion to confirm and concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it struck Terminix's later-filed motion and thereby declined to rule on its merits. The court recommended that, when faced with a motion to confirm filed within three months of an arbitration award, district courts enter a briefing schedule that sets simultaneous deadlines for the losing party to file an opposition to the motion to confirm, if any, and to file a motion to vacate, modify, or correct, if any. The court explained that this practice will prevent similar disputes from arising in the future. Finally, the court denied plaintiffs' motion for sanctions. View "McLaurin v. The Terminix International Co., LP" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Walmart's motion to compel arbitration in an action brought by a customer, seeking to represent a nationwide class of disgruntled gift-card purchasers in Missouri state court. Over the next fifteen months after the complaint was filed, Walmart gave no hint that it was interested in arbitration. Instead, it immediately removed the case to federal district court and filed a motion to dismiss all counts. After plaintiff filed an amended complaint, Walmart once again moved to dismiss on multiple grounds. Walmart subsequently moved to compel arbitration, which the district court refused. The court agreed with the district court, concluding that Walmart had taken several actions that substantially invoked the litigation machinery and that were inconsistent with its right to arbitrate and Walmart's delay prejudiced plaintiff and would likely result in a duplication of efforts. View "McCoy v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law