Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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Defendant, Simplified Labor Staffing Solutions, Inc. (Simplified) appealed an order denying its motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s claims brought under the California Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). Simplified’s motion was based on Plaintiff’s predispute agreement to arbitrate all claims arising from their employment relationship. The trial court understandably denied the motion based on a rule followed by numerous California Courts of Appeal that predispute agreements to arbitrate PAGA claims are unenforceable.   The Second Appellate District reversed and held that this rule cannot survive the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana (2022) U.S.[142 S.Ct. 1906] (Viking River). The court further held that the scope of the arbitration clause is to be determined by the arbitrator in accordance with the arbitration agreement. Specifically, the parties’ dispute about whether nonindividual PAGA claims are governed by the arbitration agreement, in the same way, individual PAGA claims are, is an issue for the arbitrator to address. View "Lewis v. Simplified Labor Staffing Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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On engaging services from Pacific Fertility Center, the plaintiffs signed “ ‘Informed Consent and Agreement to Perform Egg Cryopreservation” forms, providing that medical malpractice disputes were subject to arbitration. The plaintiffs signed separate arbitration agreements. Chart, which manufactures Pacific’s cryogenic storage tanks, and Praxair, which sold those tanks to Pacific and assisted with installation, were not signatories to either the informed consent or arbitration agreements.Following the failure of Tank Four, the plaintiffs in 54 coordinated cases filed suit. As to Chart and Praxair, the complaint alleged negligent failure to recall the tank, strict products liability (failure to warn, manufacturing defect, and design defect based on both the consumer expectations test and the risk-utility test), general negligence, and violation of the Unfair Competition Law. After the plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate their claims against Pacific, Chart and Praxair moved to compel arbitration, citing equitable estoppel. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of their motions. The plaintiffs’ claims are not premised on, nor did they arise out of, the plaintiffs’ fertility services agreements with Pacific. The issue of comparative fault and joint liability on certain issues does not inform the equitable estoppel analysis; the joint liability is not based on the same or similar legal theories and/or facts that underlie the obligations under the Pacific contracts. View "Pacific Fertility Cases" on Justia Law

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In this appeal centering on the existence of a valid arbitration agreement the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court erred in compelling arbitration of the question of whether the arbitration clause in the agreements at issue was valid.The arbitration clause in this case stemmed from transactions between lead paint tort plaintiffs who received structured settlements and affiliated factoring companies that specialize in purchasing structured settlement rights. Defendants filed motions to compel arbitration and stay the case, but Plaintiffs challenged the existence of a valid agreement to arbitrate. The trial court granted the motion to compel arbitration, finding that the arbitrator was to determine the issue of arbitrability. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court erroneously compelled arbitration and that the issue of whether a valid arbitration agreement exists is an issue for the court to determine. View "Access Funding, LLC v. Linton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs in these 177 consolidated appeals1 were participants in a 401(k) Profit Sharing Plan (the “Plan”) provided to employees by DST Systems, Inc. (“DST”), a financial and healthcare services company based in Kansas City, Missouri. At the time in question, DST was the Plan’s sponsor, administrator, and a designated fiduciary. Ruane Cunniff & Goldfarb Inc. (“Ruane”) was a Plan fiduciary involved in managing the Plan’s investments. Between October and December 2021, the district court issued seven largely identical orders confirming the arbitration awards to 177 claimants and granting their requests for substantial costs and attorneys’ fees. Defendants appealed, raising numerous issues.   The Eighth Circuit vacated the district court’s judgment including the awards of attorney’s fees, and the consolidated cases are remanded to the district court for determination of transfer and subject matter jurisdiction issues, to the extent necessary. The court concluded that transfer under Section 1631 is an issue that can be addressed before the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction is resolved. The court declined to consider the issue because Badgerow has changed underlying circumstances that may affect whether transfer “is in the interest of justice.” View "Theresa Hursh v. DST Systems, Inc" on Justia Law

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Following the commencement of arbitration proceedings between appellant Juanita’s Foods and Respondent, Juanita’s Foods failed to pay its share of arbitration fees within 30 days after such fees were due. Based on that late payment, the trial court concluded that Juanita’s Foods was in material breach of the parties’ arbitration agreement and allowed Appellant to proceed with his claims against Juanita’s Foods in court.   Juanita’s Foods argues that the trial court should have considered factors in addition to its late payment—for example, whether the late payment delayed arbitration proceedings or prejudiced Appellant—to determine the existence of a material breach of the arbitration agreement.   The Second Appellate District affirmed, concluding that the trial court correctly declined to consider these additional factors. The court explained that Code of Civil Procedure sections 1281.97 and 1281.98 provide that if a company or business that drafts an arbitration agreement does not pay its share of required arbitration fees or costs within 30 days after they are due, the company or business is in “material breach” of the arbitration agreement. In the case of such a material breach, an employee or consumer can, among other things, withdraw his or her claim from arbitration and proceed in court. Accordingly, the court affirmed the order granting Appellant’s motion to vacate the order compelling arbitration as to Juanita’s Foods. View "De Leon v. Juanita's Foods" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming an arbitration award involving a breach of a lease agreement after ruling that the arbitrator's determinations were not manifest error and were within his authority, holding that the district court did not err in confirming the arbitration award.Mountain Business Center, LLC (MBC) won an arbitration award against Fork Road, LLC. On appeal, MBC made three arguments in support of his request that the Court reverse and vacate the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the arbitrator did not exceed his authority by determining all issues presented by the parties in their stipulated list; (2) the arbitrator's determination that MBC was not the prevailing party and therefore not entitled to attorney fees was not a manifest error of law; and (3) the arbitrator's determination the MBC was not entitled to the first-to-breach rule was not a manifest error of law. View "Mountain Business Center, LLC v. Ford Road, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that in order to compel arbitration against a union employee, the claim must have been clearly and unmistakably waived in arbitration provisions in the collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) governing the parties, and to be clear and unmistakeable the claim must be included either by statute or specific cause of action in the arbitration provisions of the CBA.Plaintiff brought this intentional employer tort action under Ohio Rev. Code 2745.01. The trial court denied Defendant's ensuing motion to stay the proceedings and to compel arbitration. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that because the parties' CBA made no mention of Ohio Rev. Code 2745.01 or intentional torts, Plaintiff had not waived his right to pursue such a claim in a judicial forum. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff's claim for an intentional tort was not mentioned in the CBA, Defendants did not clearly and unmistakably agree to prohibit resolution of the claim in court. View "Sinley v. Safety Controls Technology, Inc." on Justia Law

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International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO 20 (“Local Union 97”), a union primarily of electrical workers, executed a memorandum of agreement (“2003 MOA”) detailing a two-pronged approach to providing retiree life insurance benefits. Local Union 97 brought a complaint seeking to compel arbitration of a grievance they submitted alleging that NRG violated the terms of the CBAs by changing the life insurance benefit for the Pre-2019 Retirees to a lump sum of $10,000. The district court held that: 1) the grievance is not arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA, 2) the 2003 MOA is not arbitrable, and 3) the grievance is not arbitrable under any of the CBAs covering 2003-2019.   The Second Circuit reversed and remanded and held the grievance is arbitrable under the 2019-2023 CBA because the broad arbitration provision creates a presumption in favor of arbitrability that NRG failed to overcome. The court also held that the parties’ dispute was arbitrable under the Prior CBAs because the 2003 MOA was a supplemental agreement that arguably vested the life insurance benefit for life. View "Local Union 97 v. NRG Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner was an equity partner in Dentons U.S. LLP, a law firm with offices throughout the United States. A dispute arose between them over a multimillion-dollar contingency fee from a client whom Petitioner brought to the firm. The partnership agreement contains a clause providing for arbitration of all disputes in Chicago or New York. The partnership agreement also contains a clause delegating all questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator. Dentons terminated Petitioner for cause, asserting a breach of fiduciary duty, and initiated an arbitration in New York.Petitioner sued Dentons for wrongful termination and other causes of action in Los Angeles Superior Court. Petitioner obtained a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction, enjoining the New York arbitration until the court could decide whether there was a clear and unmistakable delegation clause.Dentons filed a motion under Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.4, seeking a mandatory stay of the case based on its motion to compel arbitration that was then pending in a New York court, which the New York court later granted.Petitioner sought a writ of mandate, which the court previously denied. The Supreme Court granted review and transferred the case back to the Second Appellate District, directing the court to issue an order to show cause. The court did so, and again denies the petition. The court agreed with the trial court that the parties delegated questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator. The arbitrability issues in this case include whether petitioner is an employee who may invoke Labor Code section 925 and require the merits of the dispute to be resolved in California instead of New York. View "Zhang v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Taska was hired by TRR in 2017 but was terminated in 2018, allegedly based on her protest against the CEO’s discriminatory comments and her reports of workplace-related legal violations. After arbitration, Taska stated her intent to file a petition for attorney fees and costs under Government Code 12965(b), “upon a liability finding.” TRR also sought fees and costs, arguing Taska’s lawsuit should be deemed meritless, based on her “fabricated evidence.” TRR did not ask for any specific amount or offer supporting evidence. The arbitrator determined that Taska failed to prove her claims and was not entitled to fees or costs; TRR was not entitled to fees and costs because Taska’s claims were not frivolous. TRR later sought fees and costs, explaining that facts established by the arbitrator were not available at the time of the previous briefing. The arbitrator issued a new “Final Award,” awarding TRR $53,705.43. A Corrected Final Award increased the amount to $73,756.43, based on a calculation error.The trial court confirmed the liability determination but held that the arbitrator exceeded her authority by amending the original Award. The court of appeal affirmed. Once the 30-day period for correction (section 1284) runs, the award is final and the arbitrator’s jurisdiction ends apart from specific statutory exceptions, The court rejected TRR’s “placeholder” argument that the Award was not “final” because the issue of fees and costs was not ripe until the arbitrator determined the question of liability. View "Taska v. The RealReal, Inc." on Justia Law