Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court granting the World Boxing Organization's (WBO) motion to compel arbitration of Austin Trout's claim under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (MABRA), 15 U.S.C. 6309(d), and claims under Puerto Rico law for breach of contract, fraud, and negligence, holding that the arbitrator-selection provision set forth in the WBO Appeal Regulations is invalid. Trout, a professional boxer residing in New Mexico, sued the WBO, which is based in Puerto Rico, challenging the WBO's decision to remove him from its rankings for a certain weight class. The WBO moved to compel arbitration pursuant to a clause in the WBO Championship Regulations and the Federal Arbitration Act. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the claims without prejudice. The First Circuit vacated the district court's decision, holding (1) the arbitrator-selection provision that the Appeal Regulations sets forth, which grants the WBO exclusive control over the appointment of the arbitrators who will decide Trout's claims, is so unreasonable and unjust as to be unconscionable under Puerto Rico contract law; and (2) the case is remanded for the district court to determine whether the arbitrator-selection provision is severable from the remainder of the arbitration agreement. View "Trout v. Organizacion Mundial de Boxeo, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) dispute between the parties where an arbitrator resolved the dispute in favor of the union. The Eighth Circuit held that because the arbitrator was arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority, there is no basis for vacating the arbitrator's finding that Exide violated the CBA. The court also held that the district court correctly determined that it did not have jurisdiction over Exide's claim that the arbitrator's decision that unilaterally changing Family Medical Leave Act leave administrators was a material, substantial and significant change in the employees' terms and conditions of employment in violation of Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act. Rather, Congress has empowered the NLRB to resolve unfair-labor-practice claims in the first instance. Furthermore, the cases cited by the parties do not expand the court's original jurisdiction. View "Exide Technologies v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers" on Justia Law

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The parties’ arbitration agreement purported to waive class actions and any “other representative action” (the representative waiver). There was no dispute that this representative waiver was broad enough to cover a Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) claim, and was thus invalid. The arbitration agreement went on to provide that the provision containing the class action and representative waiver was not modifiable nor severable. The arbitration agreement also contained a provision that if the representative waiver was found to be invalid, “the Agreement becomes null and void as to the employee(s) who are parties to that particular dispute,” the so-called "blow-up provision." Plaintiff Nichole Kec brought individual, class, and PAGA claims against defendants R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Reynolds American Inc., and three individual employees at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, alleging in essence, that she and others were misclassified as exempt employees, resulting in various violations of the Labor Code. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Reynolds American Inc., moved to compel arbitration of plaintiff’s individual claims except the PAGA claim. The court granted the motion. The court reasoned: (1) because defendants had not asked the court to rule on the enforceability of the representative waiver, it had not found the representative waiver invalid, and thus the blow-up provision had not been triggered; and (2) the blow-up provision could apply only to the attempted waiver of the PAGA claim, not to the arbitrability of plaintiff’s claims under the Labor Code. The Court of Appeal concluded defendants could not selectively enforce the arbitration agreement in a manner that defeated its goals. "Had the parties intended to permit defendants to proceed with arbitration notwithstanding an invalid waiver of representative claims, they would have simply made that provision severable, like every other term in the agreement. But that is not what they did. Instead, by specifically making section 5 not severable, the agreement evinces an intent not to allow defendants to selectively enforce the arbitration agreement." The Court issued a writ of mandate ordering the trial court to vacate its order granting arbitration, and to enter a new order denying the motion in its entirety. View "Kec v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2005, U.S. Home Corporation entered into a contract to purchase two contiguous tracts of land, one of which was owned by West Pleasant-CPGT, Inc. Under the contract, West Pleasant and the other landowner were to gain certain approvals permitting development of the properties. Pursuant to the contract, U.S. Home paid advances to the landowners totaling over $1.5 million. As security for the advances, West Pleasant executed a mortgage and note on its property; the other landowner did not. When a contract dispute arose in 2006, U.S. Home sought to terminate the contract and get a return of its total advance. U.S. Home prevailed in arbitration and was awarded a judgment in the full amount of the advance, plus interest. The Appellate Division affirmed the judgment in 2009. When the judgment was not satisfied, U.S. Home commenced foreclosure actions against the properties. The foreclosure proceedings were stayed when West Pleasant and the other property owner filed for bankruptcy. In West Pleasant’s bankruptcy action, U.S. Home moved to dismiss and for relief from the automatic stay. West Pleasant and U.S. Home executed a Consent Order, in which West Pleasant dismissed its bankruptcy proceeding, waived a fair market valuation and its right to object to a sheriff’s sale of its property, and released U.S. Home from any claims in law or equity. U.S. Home never proceeded with any deficiency action against either landowner. Nonetheless, the landowners commenced the affirmative litigation that gave rise to this appeal, seeking a declaration that the arbitration award was fully satisfied, as well as compensation “in the amount of the excess fair market value of the properties obtained by defendant[] U.S. Home over the amount of its outstanding judgment.” The second property owner then assigned its rights to West Pleasant. After trial, the court valued the second property as worth almost $2.4 million and West Pleasant’s property as worth almost $2 million. The court ordered U.S. Home to pay the fair market value of the West Pleasant property, plus interest, and extinguished the arbitration award on the second property. On appeal, the Appellate Division determined that West Pleasant had waived its right to a fair market valuation on its property but that it was owed a fair market value credit for the second property. The Appellate Division remanded the matter to the trial court for recalculation of damages. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, finding use of fair market value credit by this debtor to obtain a money judgment against a creditor, in the absence of a deficiency claim threatened or pursued or any objection being raised at the time of the sheriff’s sales, was "inconsistent with sound foreclosure processes and, moreover, inequitable in the circumstances presented." The judgment of the Appellate Division was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "West Pleasant-CPGT, Inc. v. U.S. Home Corporation" on Justia Law

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The lack of initials next to a jury waiver contained in an arbitration agreement, even though the drafter included lines for the initials, is of no legal consequence in this case. After plaintiff filed an employment-related suit against BaronHR, BaronHR moved to compel arbitration. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration because the language of the agreement between the parties establishes their mutual assent to submit employment-related disputes to arbitration and to waive the right to a jury trial. Furthermore, plaintiff does not dispute that he signed the agreement and thus he is deemed to have assented to its terms. The court stated that the fact that plaintiff did not also initial the subject paragraph does not provide a basis for concluding the parties did not mutually assent to the arbitration agreement. View "Martinez v. BaronHR, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for discovery pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782(a), seeking discovery from four investment banks related to their work as underwriters in the Tencent Music IPO. Petitioner alleged that he intended to use the documents in his pending CIETAC arbitration against the Ocean Entities and its founder. 28 U.S.C. 1782(a) authorizes federal courts to compel the production of materials "for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal" upon "the application of any interested person." In In National Broadcasting Co. v. Bear Stearns & Co., 165 F.3d 184 (2d Cir. 1999) ("NBC"), the court held that the phrase "foreign or international tribunal" does not encompass "arbitral bod[ies] established by private parties." The court held that nothing in the Supreme Court's decision in Intel Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 542 U.S. 241 (2004), alters its prior conclusion in NBC that section 1782(a) does not extend to private international commercial arbitrations. Furthermore, the arbitration at issue here is a non-covered, private, international commercial arbitration. View "In re: Application and Petition of Hanwei Guo" on Justia Law

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Where, as here, an arbitrator issues a series of rulings during an arbitration proceeding, a court determines which rulings constitutes an "award" by (1) asking whether the ruling (a) determines all issues necessary to resolve the entire controversy and (b) leaves unaddressed only those issues incapable of resolution at that time because those issues are potential, conditional or contingent, and (2) answering those questions by looking to the specific procedures adopted in the arbitration at issue. In this case, the parties trifurcated the arbitration proceedings and the arbitrator's second of three rulings did not determine all issues necessary to the controversy and left unaddressed issues that could have been addressed at that time. Therefore, the Court of Appeal held that the arbitrator acted within her authority in modifying that second ruling prior to issuing her third and final ruling that constituted an "award" and the trial court erred in refusing to confirm that award on the ground that the arbitrator had exceeded her powers in incorporating a modification of the second ruling into the award. The court vacated with instructions to enter a new and different judgment, rejecting the parties' further attorney fees-based challenges and awarding attorney fees on appeal to the prevailing party on appeal. View "Lonky v. Patel" on Justia Law

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In this cattle-feeding dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals overturning the trial court's denial of Appellees' post-judgment motion to compel arbitration, holding that a party does not forfeit its right to challenge a ruling on appeal from a final judgment simply by choosing not to pursue an interlocutory appeal of that ruling. Appellants brought this action alleging fraud, unjust enrichment, and other claims. Appellees moved to dismiss the suit and compel arbitration, arguing that the claims were subject to the agreement's arbitration clause. The trial court denied the motion, and Appellees did not challenge the court's ruling through an interlocutory appeal. After the trial court rendered judgment Appellees appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied their motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions that the trial court order the parties to arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to consider the trial court's denial of Appellees' motion to compel arbitration; and (2) on the merits, the court of appeals did not err in ordering arbitration. View "Bonsmara Natural Beef Co. v. Hart of Texas Cattle Feeders, LLC" on Justia Law

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Respondent appealed the district court's order confirming a $28 million international arbitration award in favor of EGI. EGI sought to enforce the Chilean award in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by filing a petition to confirm the international arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act. The Eleventh Circuit agreed with the district court that service in Brazil was proper and that this arbitration award should be confirmed. The court held that the district court did not err in finding that considerations of international comity counseled against reviewing the Brazilian court's determination that respondent had been properly served in accordance with Brazilian law, especially since the Convention on Letters Rogatory commits jurisdiction of this issue to the courts of Brazil. However, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded with instructions to correct two errors that the district court committed in enforcing the award. In this case, the district court clearly erred in accepting EGI's calculations, which converted UF to pesos to U.S. dollars on January 23, 2012, rather than the proper conversion date under the breach day rule, January 13, 2012. Furthermore, instead of enforcing the Arbitration Award as requested by EGI, the district court's order should have required respondent to pay the purchase price set out in the Shareholders' Agreement and the Award and in exchange required EGI to tender its shares. View "EGI-VSR, LLC v. Juan Carlos Celestino Coderch Mitjans" on Justia Law

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The Private Attorney General Act (Labor Code 2698) allows an employee, as a proxy for state enforcement agencies, to sue an employer on behalf of herself and other aggrieved employees for Labor Code violations. When the parties have an arbitration agreement, California law blocks the employer from enforcing that agreement with respect to representative PAGA claims for civil penalties; the agreement may be enforceable with respect to other claims, including claims for victim-specific relief (like unpaid wages). Lime rents electric scooters. Olabi entered into an agreement to locate, recharge, and redeploy Lime's scooters. The agreement required the parties to arbitrate “any and all disputes,” including Olabi’s classification as an independent contractor but contained an exception for PAGA representative actions. Olabi sued, alleging Lime intentionally misclassified him and others as independent contractors, resulting in Labor Code violations; he included claims under the Unfair Competition Law and PAGA. Lime petitioned to compel arbitration, arguing Olabi was required to arbitrate independent contractor classification disputes and that the PAGA exception did not cover the unfair competition claim or the PAGA claim to the extent that Olabi sought victim-specific relief. Olabi voluntarily dismissed his unfair competition claim and disavowed any claim for victim-specific relief. The trial court denied Lime’s petition and granted Olabi leave to amend. The court of appeal affirmed. The language of the arbitration agreement broadly excludes PAGA actions View "Olabi v. Neutron Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law