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In this case alleging several violations of federal and state discrimination laws the First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings in district court and compel arbitration, holding that the contract to arbitration in between the parties was unenforceable. Plaintiffs - several individuals and the National Federation of the Blind - filed a complaint alleging that Defendant - the Container Store, Inc. - failed to utilize tactile keypads on its point-of-sale devices in its stores that could independently be used by customers who are blind in violation of federal and state discrimination laws. Defendant moved to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration provision in the terms and conditions of a loyalty program of which the individual plaintiffs were members. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) based upon the lack of evidence that the in-store plaintiffs had any knowledge that arbitration terms applied to their enrollment in the loyalty program, Defendant failed to establish that an agreement to arbitrate was consummated between it and three of the four individual plaintiffs; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the loyalty program agreement was illusory and therefore void. View "National Federation of the Blind v. Container Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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A defendant that timely asserts that the district court lacks personal jurisdiction and litigates the issue to an adverse decision from the district court does not waive the personal jurisdiction defense by vigorously litigating defenses to the merits, including by asserting counterclaims against other parties. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment compelling arbitration of contract claims and held that the Bank was entitled to litigate its defenses and counterclaims in a related matter between similar parties without waiving the issue of personal jurisdiction, because the Bank had timely asserted the personal jurisdiction defense and received an adverse ruling (that jurisdiction was proper) from the district court. The panel remanded for dismissal based on lack of personal jurisdiction. View "InfoSpan, Inc. v. Emirates NBD Bank PSJC" on Justia Law

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Following mediation, a trust beneficiary and a trustee signed a document purporting to settle a bitter family litigation and referring future disputes to the mediator for resolution. The beneficiary subsequently denied that she settled and asked the mediator to resolve the issue, but the mediator concluded that the parties had reached a binding settlement. The beneficiary tried to resurrect this issue in the superior court, but the court concluded that the mediator’s decision was within the scope of the authority conferred by the parties. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not err by confirming the mediator’s decision. Furthermore, the court did not err by denying the beneficiary’s petition to review the trustee’s compensation, or by awarding Alaska Civil Rule 82 attorney’s fees to the trustee. View "Lee v. Sheldon" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against GFA, alleging that GFA solicited charitable donations to benefit the poorest of the poor while covertly diverting the money to a multi-million dollar personal empire. The district court denied GFA's motion to compel arbitration. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court interpreted the scope of the arbitration agreements too narrowly, reasoning that, since none of the mission statements or pledges found in the agreements reach donations made to the church, the dispute was entirely unrelated to the parties' agreements. The court held that, even if the agreements did not reach donations made to GFA, the district court erred because the arbitration agreements did not apply only to disputes arising out of the agreements. Rather, they applied by their terms to any and all disputes of any kind arising out of the relationship between plaintiffs and GFA. Because the court could not say with positive assurance that the donations plaintiffs made to GFA did not arise out of that relationship, the court reversed and remanded. View "Dickson v. Gospel for ASIA, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this dispute between a law firm and the party it previously represented, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal insofar as it reversed the superior court’s judgment entered on an arbitration award but reversed the Court of Appeal’s judgment insofar as it ordered disgorgement of all fees collected, holding that the law firm's conduct rendered the parties' arbitration agreement unenforceable but that the ethical violation did not categorically disentitle the law firm from recovering the value of services it rendered to the opposing party. A law firm agreed to represent a manufacturing company in a federal qui tam action. The law firm was later disqualified, and the parties disagreed as to the manufacturer’s outstanding law firm bills. The dispute was sent to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration clause in the parties’ engagement agreement, and the arbitrators ruled in favor of the law firm. The superior court confirmed the award. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding (1) the law firm committed an ethical violation that rendered the parties’ agreement, including the arbitration clause, unenforceable in its entirety; and (2) the law firm was disentitled from receiving any compensation for the work it performed for the manufacturer. The Supreme Court agreed that the law firm’s conduct rendered the parties’ agreement unenforceable but concluded that the ethical violation did not categorically disentitle the law firm from recovering the value of the services it rendered to the manufacturer. View "Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP v. J-M Manufacturing Co." on Justia Law

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At issue was two questions under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the Convention) regarding federal subject matter jurisdiction established in an arbitration agreement and whether the parties entered into an agreement under the meaning of the Convention to arbitrate their dispute. Plaintiff’s predecessor entered into contracts that contained arbitration clauses and included “subcontractors.” Defendant was listed as a subcontractor. Plaintiff and its insurers later filed suit, and the case was removed to federal district court. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ motion to remand and granted Defendant’s motions to compel and dismiss. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the motion to remand but reversed and remanded the order compelling arbitration, holding (1) where jurisdiction is challenged on a motion to remand, the district court shall perform a limited inquiry to determine whether the suit “relates to” an arbitration agreement pursuant to the Convention under the factors articulated in Bautista v. Star Cruises, 396 F.3d 1289 (11th Cir. 2005); and (2) on a motion to compel arbitration, the district court must engage in a rigorous analysis of the Bautista factors to determine whether the parties entered into an agreement under the meaning of the Convention to arbitrate their dispute. View "Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC v. Converteam SAS" on Justia Law

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Employees at Akers's manufacturing facility were union members, represented by USW under collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). In 2016, Akers was acquired by Ampco. Former Akers employees who had retired but were under age 65 (not eligible for Medicare) then paid $195 per month for their healthcare. Ampco planned to eliminate that benefit for those who had retired before March 2015. The new plan would require retirees to purchase health insurance on the private market and then be reimbursed up to $500 per month for individuals ($700 for families), for five years. Retirees cited a February 2015 memorandum of agreement (MOA), providing that “[c]urrent retirees will remain on their existing Plan ($195.00 monthly premium).” USW filed a grievance. Ampco rejected the grievance, claiming that the Union no longer represented the retirees. USW and Cup, who retired from the plant in 2014, on behalf of a class, filed a non-substantive claim compelling arbitration under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185; a claim to enforce the CBA; and, alternatively, a claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a). Having ruled in the Union’s favor on the arbitration count, the court dismissed the substantive counts. The Third Circuit stayed enforcement of the arbitration order, then concluded that the dispute is not subject to arbitration under the CBA because retiree health benefits are not covered by the CBA. Retiree health benefits are discussed in the MOA, which was never incorporated into the CBA; whether the omission was was intentional or inadvertent, the contracts must be enforced as written. View "Cup v. Ampco Pittsburgh Corp" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Branches Neighborhood Corporation, a community association incorporated pursuant to the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, filed an arbitration claim against the association’s developer, defendant CalAtlantic Group, Inc., formerly known as Standard Pacific Corp. (Standard), for construction defects. The arbitrator granted summary judgment in Standard’s favor, concluding the association did not receive the consent of its members to file the claim until after the claim was filed, in violation of its declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The trial court subsequently denied the association’s motion to vacate the award, concluding the court had no power to review the arbitrator’s decision. Branches argued on appeal the trial court incorrectly denied its motion to vacate because the arbitrator exceeded its powers by abridging an unwaivable statutory right or public policy. Finding no such right or policy, the Court of Appeal determined the plain language of the CC&Rs controlled. The Court therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Branches Neighborhood Corp. v. CalAtlantic Group, Inc.," on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Alfredo Fuentes entered into a written agreement with defendant TMCSF, Inc., doing business as Riverside Harley-Davidson (Riverside), to buy a motorcycle. At the same time, he entered into a written agreement with Eaglemark Savings Bank (Eaglemark) to finance the purchase. The loan agreement included an arbitration clause; the purchase agreement did not. Fuentes then filed suit against Riverside, alleging that Riverside made various misrepresentations and violated various statutes in connection with the sale of the motorcycle. Riverside petitioned to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the petition. The Court of Appeal held Riverside was not entitled to compel arbitration because it was not a party to the arbitration clause, it was not acting in the capacity of an agent of a party to the arbitration clause, and it was not a third party beneficiary of the arbitration clause. Moreover, Fuentes was not equitably estopped to deny Riverside’s claimed right to compel arbitration. View "Fuentes v. TMCSF, Inc." on Justia Law

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Busick, who worked as a Massachusetts Instacart shopper and driver, filed a class action arbitration demand on behalf of herself and similarly situated Massachusetts shoppers and drivers, claiming that Instacart violated California law by classifying them as independent contractors rather than employees. The parties' Independent Contractor Agreement stated that disputes would be submitted to binding arbitration, applying California substantive law and “[a]ny action to review the arbitration award for legal error or to have it confirmed, corrected or vacated” would be decided under California law by a California state court. The parties submitted to the arbitrator the threshold issue whether the Agreement allowed Busick to seek certification of a claimant class within the arbitration. In a “Partial Final Award,” the arbitrator answered in the affirmative, stating that her ruling “determines only that [Busick] may move for class certification as part of the mandated arbitration. It does not address the appropriateness of such certification, nor the underlying claim.” Instacart filed a petition to vacate. The court of appeal affirmed that the superior court lacked jurisdiction. The California Arbitration Act allows a party to an arbitration to petition the superior court to confirm, correct or vacate an arbitrator’s “award,” an award that must be set out in writing and “include a determination of all the questions submitted to the arbitrators the decision of which is necessary in order to determine the controversy.” The arbitrator’s ruling was not an award. View "Maplebear v. Busick" on Justia Law