Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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The Clinic hired Gamboa, who signed several onboarding documents. Weeks later, Gamboa sustained an injury to her hand that affected her work. After Gamboa requested medical accommodations, the Clinic terminated her employment. Gamboa sued for discrimination, retaliation, and failure to provide reasonable accommodation. The Clinic moved to compel arbitration, arguing that Gamboa had signed an arbitration agreement as part of her required onboarding documents.The court of appeal affirmed the denial of that motion. The Clinic failed to prove the existence of an arbitration agreement by a preponderance of the evidence after Gamboa produced evidence disputing an agreement. The Clinic may have met its burden on the first step by attaching to Lopez’s (the Clinic’s director of human resources) declaration a copy of the arbitration agreement purporting to bear Gamboa’s signature but Gamboa met her burden on the second step by filing an opposing declaration, saying she did not recall the agreement and would not have signed it if she had been aware of it. Lopez did not explain how she knew Gamboa had seen, much less signed, the arbitration agreement. View "Gamboa v. Northeast Community Clinic" on Justia Law

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PG sought to vacate a labor arbitration award. In many labor disputes, both the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185(a), and the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 10, provide means for seeking vacatur or confirmation of arbitration awards. The statutes employ distinct procedural vehicles, require litigants to meet different legal standards, and prescribe separate limitations periods. PG argued that even if it filed its complaint outside of the applicable limitations period for an LMRA action, it filed within the FAA’s 90-day limitations period for motions to vacate an arbitration award.The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of PG’s action as untimely. Although a party may bring both an LMRA action and an FAA motion challenging or confirming certain labor arbitration awards, PG did not proceed by motion as required by the FAA, and so did not properly invoke that statute. PG’s LMRA Section 301 action was untimely. The court clarified the procedures for seeking to vacate or confirm an arbitration award under the LMRA and under the FAA. View "PG Publishing Co v. Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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The Union represents employees at Constellium’s plant. In 2013, after Constellium attempted to change retirees’ health benefits, the Union sued. In 2017, the Fourth Circuit held, in "Barton," that, because the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) stated that retiree health benefits would endure only for the CBA's term, they did not vest. Constellium and the Union subsequently negotiated another CBA, effective through September 2022, which outlines retiree healthcare benefits. Constellium sent a letter to its Medicare-eligible retirees, announcing changes to their healthcare coverage.The Union initiated a grievance, citing the CBA’s guarantee of retiree health benefits for the CBA’s term. Constellium claimed that the change did not violate the CBA and that Barton permitted the change with respect to retirees who retired under previous CBAs. Constellium unsuccessfully sought a declaratory judgment that it prevailed on preclusion grounds; the district court reasoned that whether Barton precluded arbitration was a question for the arbitrator.An arbitrator ruled in favor of the Union, reasoning that “the question of whether retiree health benefits were vested or durational”—which was “central” in Barton—was "a red herring” because the Union’s new claims did not depend on whether the benefits were vested or durational, but focused on the terms of the 2017 CBA, under which Constellium was obligated to maintain the same health benefits for the relevant retirees throughout the CBA's full term. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the denial of Constellium’s motion to vacate the arbitrator’s award. View "Constellium Rolled Products Ravenswood, LLC v. United Steel, Paper & Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the judgment of the judgment of the district court granting a motion to compel arbitration filed by the personal representative of the estate of a famous American artist (Estate), dismissing an art publisher's (Publisher) motion for a preliminary injunction as moot, and eventually dismissing the case, holding that the district court erred.At issue was an agreement between the Estate and Publisher. Publisher asserted that the parties' original contract, which included an agreement to arbitration, was terminated and supplanted by a superseding contract that did not contain an arbitration provision. In question was whether the arbitrability of the parties' dispute about the newer contract's enforceability and impact on the earlier agreement to arbitrate should be decided by the court or by arbitrators. The district court concluded that the gateway question of arbitrability was for the arbitrators. The First Circuit reversed, holding that it is the court, and not the arbitrators, that must resolve the disagreement in this case. View "McKenzie v. Brannan" on Justia Law

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SHI, owned by Vik, borrowed funds from Deutsche Bank (Bank). SHI entered a limited partnership (LP) agreement with Devon and invested $25 million, Bank issued margin calls. SHI claimed that it lacked funds to satisfy the calls. Bank sued SHI in England and Wales and received a $235,646,345 judgment, which SHI has not satisfied. SHI transferred the Devon Interest to CPR (allegedly related to Vik's father). SHI paid Devon millions of dollars for the transfer. Devon made fund distributions to the limited partners but had difficulties transmitting proceeds to CPR. CPR initiated arbitration to compel Devon to release the Proceeds. The arbitrator denied Bank’s request to intervene. Devon raised counterclaims, seeking a declaration whether the assignment to CPR was enforceable.Meanwhile, Bank sued CPR, SHI, and Devon in Delaware, alleging a conspiracy to commit fraud. The arbitrator denied Devon’s motion to stay proceedings. Devon then refused to participate in the arbitration. The arbitrator awarded CPR the proceeds, plus prejudgment interest, CPR petitioned to confirm the arbitration award; in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Devon attempted to interplead Deutsche Bank. Bank answered and sought to set aside the purported transfer of the Devon Interest to CPR, to declare SHI and CPR alter egos, and to find Devon, CPR, and SHI liable for fraud and conspiracy. The Third Circuit affirmed orders confirming the arbitration award, striking the interpleader complaint, and dismissing all third parties and claims and Devon’s counterclaim. View "CPR Management SA v. Devon Park Bioventures LP" on Justia Law

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In 1972, P&A signed a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with Local 15024. In the early 1980s, according to P&A, Local 825 pressured P&A to employ them instead. P&A created Utility Systems to hire Local 825 workers. Utility signed a CBA with Local 825. In 2016-2018, Utility subcontracted a number of construction projects to P&A, which used its workers from Local 15024 on those jobs. Local 825 brought grievances against Utility. P&A feared that if Local 825’s arbitrator ruled that Utility’s subcontractors must use Local 825 workers, that might force P&A to violate its CBA with Local 15024. P&A and Utility filed suit, requesting an order compelling joint arbitration with both employers and both unions. The district court held that it could enforce joint arbitration under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185(a), but that it would be inappropriate here because there was an insufficient risk that P&A and Utility would face conflicting arbitration awards simultaneously granting the same jobs to both unions. It also determined that P&A and Utility could not be deemed a single or joint employer.The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Joint arbitration is available under the Act as a general matter, either before or after the bipartite arbitration award at issue has become final, but the employers here which are two at least nominally separate companies, cannot invoke that general rule. View "P&A Construction Inc v. International Union of Operating Engineers" on Justia Law

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The federally-recognized Native American Tribe (in California) started an online lending business, allegedly operated by non-tribal companies owned by non-tribal Defendants on non-tribal land. The Plaintiffs are Virginia consumers who received online loans from tribal lenders while living in Virginia. Although Virginia usury law generally prohibits interest rates over 12%, the interest rates on Plaintiffs’ loans ranged from 544% to 920%. The Plaintiffs each electronically signed a “loan agreement,” “governed by applicable tribal law,” and containing an “Arbitration Provision.” The borrowers defaulted and brought a putative class action against tribal officials and two non-members affiliated with the tribal lenders.The district court denied the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and motions to dismiss on the ground of tribal sovereign immunity except for a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claim. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The choice-of-law clauses of this arbitration provision, which mandate exclusive application of tribal law during any arbitration, operate as prospective waivers that would require the arbitrator to determine whether the arbitration provision impermissibly waives federal substantive rights without recourse to federal substantive law. The arbitration provisions are unenforceable as violating public policy. Substantive state law applies to off-reservation conduct, and although the Tribe itself cannot be sued for its commercial activities, its members and officers can be. Citing Virginia’s interest in prohibiting usurious lending, the court refused to enforce the choice-of-law provision. RICO does not give private plaintiffs a right to injunctive relief. View "Hengle v. Treppa" on Justia Law

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In 2007, ROHM Japan and MaxPower entered into a technology license agreement (TLA). ROHM Japan was permitted “to use certain power [metal oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFET)]-related technologies of” MaxPower (Licensor) developed under a Development and Stock Purchase Agreement in exchange for royalties paid to MaxPower. The TLA, as amended in 2011, includes an agreement to arbitrate “[a]ny dispute, controversy, or claim arising out of or in relation to this Agreement or at law, or the breach, termination, or validity thereof.” Arbitration is to be conducted “in accordance with the provisions of the California Code of Civil Procedure.”In 2019, a dispute arose between ROHM Japan and MaxPower concerning whether the TLA covers ROHM’s silicon carbide MOSFET products. MaxPower notified ROHM Japan of its intent to initiate arbitration. Shortly thereafter, ROHM's subsidiary, ROHM USA, sought a declaratory judgment of noninfringement of four MaxPower patents in the Northern District of California and four inter partes review petitions. The district court granted MaxPower’s motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case without prejudice, reasoning that the TLA “unmistakably delegate[s] the question of arbitrability to the arbitrator.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. In contracts between sophisticated parties, incorporation of rules with a provision on the subject is normally sufficient “clear and unmistakable” evidence of the parties’ intent to delegate arbitrability to an arbitrator. View "ROHM Semiconductor USA, LLC v. MaxPower Semiconductor, Inc." on Justia Law

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In her complaint, plaintiff Pamela Chambers alleged that she received a written communication from a debt collector contracted by Crown that failed to comply with the CFDBPA’s notice formatting requirement. She filed a putative class action lawsuit against Crown Asset Management, LLC. Crown moved to compel arbitration, relying on an affidavit from an employee of Chambers’s original creditor, Synchrony Bank (Synchrony), who stated in part that “Synchrony’s records” showed a credit card account agreement containing an arbitration clause was mailed to Chambers. Chambers objected to the affidavit on various evidentiary grounds. The trial court sustained the objections and denied Crown’s motion to compel arbitration. Crown appealed, contending the trial court erred by sustaining Chambers’s evidentiary objections and denying the motion to compel. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Chambers v. Crown Asset Management, LLC" on Justia Law

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Aviles worked for ADT, installing security systems in customers’ homes; he spied on customers using cameras he had installed. ADT discovered Aviles’s misconduct, fired him, and reported him to the authorities. The Richmonds, citizens of Texas, among Aviles’s victims, sued Aviles and ADT in Texas state court. The Richmonds’ contract with ADT contained an arbitration clause. ADT filed a federal suit under the Federal Arbitration Act, alleging complete diversity between the Richmonds and ADT, which is a citizen of Florida and Delaware.The Fifth Circuit vacated the dismissal of the suit. A federal court can hear a suit to compel arbitration only if it could hear “a suit arising out of the controversy between the parties,” 9 U.S.C. 4. To define that “controversy,” a federal court must “look through” the FAA petition “to the parties’ underlying substantive controversy.” If a federal court could hear a suit arising from that “whole controversy,” then that court can hear the FAA suit. The district court looked through ADT’s federal suit to the Richmonds’ state-court complaint, which named Aviles and ADT as defendants, and concluded that the “whole controversy” included Aviles, ADT, and the Richmonds. Those parties lacked diversity of citizenship because Aviles is from Texas. The district court erred in extending the “whole controversy” analysis to define the “parties” to that controversy. View "ADT, L.L.C. v. Richmond" on Justia Law