Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries
Ashford v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
The Federal Arbitration Act expresses a strong policy in favor of arbitration. Based on that, the Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit have consistently held that contractual provisions capable of being reasonably read to call for arbitration should be construed in favor of arbitration. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of PwC's motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff's Title VII claims. Following precedent, the court construed the arbitration provision in the employment agreement between the parties to require arbitration of plaintiff's Title VII claims, and the arbitration provision was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to compel arbitration. View "Ashford v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP" on Justia Law
Ommen v. MilliMan, Inc.
In this appeal from the district court's denial of a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration the Supreme Court held that the court-appointed liquidator of a now-insolvent health insurer pursuing common law tort claims against a third-party contractor is bound by an arbitration provision in a preinsolvency agreement between the health insurer and the third-party contractor. Prior to its insolvency, the health insurance provider entered into an agreement with a third-party contractor for consulting services. The provider was later declared insolvent and placed into liquidation. Plaintiff, the provider's court-appointed liquidator, brought an action against the contractor, asserting common law tort damages. The contractor filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration on the grounds that the parties' agreement contained an arbitration clause. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration provision did not apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the liquidator was bound by the arbitration provision because the liquidator stood in the shoes of the provider; (2) the liquidator could not use Iowa Code 507C.21(k) to disavow a preinsolvency agreement that the contractor already performed; and (3) the McCarran-Ferguson Act does not permit reverse preemption of the Federal Arbitration Act when the liquidator asserts common law tort damages against a third-party contractor. View "Ommen v. MilliMan, Inc." on Justia Law
Bowles v. OneMain Financial Group, LLC
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration of plaintiff's age discrimination suit against OneMain. The court held that the district court correctly rejected plaintiff's meeting of the minds argument on the merits based on Mississippi law. In this case, the district court found that the electronic communications transmitting the Arbitration Agreement clearly identified an arbitration agreement as the subject of the communications, and that plaintiff was given the opportunity to reach the Agreement and certified that she had done so. Furthermore, the district court correctly held that plaintiff's procedural unconscionability challenge was a challenge to the the Agreement's enforceability and therefore must be decided by an arbitrator rather than the courts. View "Bowles v. OneMain Financial Group, LLC" on Justia Law
Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia VII) v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co.
The Supreme Court held that the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Convention) does not apply when parties have agreed to waive formal service of process in favor of a specified type of notification. Defendant, a company based in China, and Plaintiff entered into a contract providing that the parties would submit to the jurisdiction of California courts and to resolve disputes between them through California arbitration. The parties further agreed to provide notice and service of process to each other through Federal Express or a similar courier. Plaintiff later sought arbitration. Defendant neither responded nor appeared for the arbitration, and the arbitrator awarded Plaintiff $414,601,200. Defendant moved to set aside default judgment for insufficiency of service of process, arguing that Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Convention rendered the judgment confirming the arbitration award void. The motion was denied. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Convention applies only when the law of the forum state requires formal service of process to be sent abroad; and (2) because the parties' contract constituted a waiver of formal service under California law in favor of an alternative form of notification, the Convention does not apply. View "Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia VII) v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co." on Justia Law
Trina Solar US, Inc. v. Jasmin Solar Pty Ltd.
Jasmin appealed the district court's grant of Trina's petition to confirm an arbitration award entered in its favor and denial of Jasmin and JRC's motion to vacate the award. The district court relied on an agency and direct benefits theory of estoppel to find that Jasmin was bound by the arbitration clause. The Second Circuit reversed the district court's judgment as to Jasmin, holding that the district court erred when it determined that Jasmin was bound as a principal to the contract under agency theory. The court was not persuaded that JRC acted as Jasmin's agent in executing the contract or that, in the alternative, Jasmin was bound to the arbitration clause under a direct benefits theory of estoppel. In this case, the commercial contract containing the arbitration clause was governed by New York law and signed by Trina and JRC, not Jasmin. The court explained that Jasmin was not a party to the contract and thus could not enforce any rights or duties under the contract. The court remanded with instructions to enter an amended judgment dismissing the case as to Jasmin. View "Trina Solar US, Inc. v. Jasmin Solar Pty Ltd." on Justia Law
Dennison v. Rosland Capital LLC
After plaintiff made four purchases of precious metals from defendants, he filed suit alleging that defendants misled him. Plaintiff, as trustee for the Dennison Family Trust, purchased the precious metals after seeing television commercials promoting such investments. The Court of Appeal held that the arbitration agreement does not clearly and unmistakably delegate authority to the arbitrator to decide unconscionability; the arbitration agreement is unconscionable based on lack of mutuality, limitations on defendants' liability, and the statute of limitations; and the court could not save the arbitration agreement by severing a single offending clause because the agreement is permeated with unconscionable terms. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Dennison v. Rosland Capital LLC" on Justia Law
Servotronics, Inc. v. The Boeing Co.
Seeking evidence to use in a United Kingdom arbitration, Servotronics filed an application in the district court under 28 U.S.C. 1782 to obtain testimony from three Boeing employees residing in South Carolina. On appeal, Servotronics contends that the district court erred in ruling that the UK arbitral panel was not a "foreign tribunal" for purposes of section 1782 and thus it lacked authority to grant Servotronics' application to obtain testimony for use in the UK arbitration. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the arbitral panel in the United Kingdom is a foreign tribunal for purposes of section 1782. The court explained that the current version of the statute, as amended in 1964, manifests Congress' policy to increase international cooperation by providing U.S. assistance in resolving disputes before not only foreign courts but before all foreign and international tribunals. The court wrote that such a policy was intended to contribute to the orderly resolution of disputes both in the United States and abroad, elevating the importance of the rule of law and encouraging a spirit of comity between foreign countries and the United States. Furthermore, Boeing's argument to the contrary represents too narrow an understanding of arbitration, whether it is conducted in the United Kingdom or the United States. View "Servotronics, Inc. v. The Boeing Co." on Justia Law
Ebbe v. Concorde Investment Services, LLC
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitral award denying certain claims against Concorde Investment Services, LLC, holding that the arbitrator's conclusion was reasonable in light of the claims made and the evidence presented. Appellant's claims against Concorde were for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, violations of FINRA sustainability rules and regulations against deceptive securities practices, and failure to properly supervise. Appellant's claims against Concorde were denied. Appellant filed a motion to vacate in part and confirm in part the award, and Concorde filed a motion to confirm the award. The district court denied the motion to vacate and granted the motion to confirm. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitrators did not engage in a manifest disregard of the law and that none of the statutory bases for vacating the awards set forth in the Federal Arbitration Act were met. View "Ebbe v. Concorde Investment Services, LLC" on Justia Law
Lanza v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
In this dispute over the handling of brokerage accounts the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the federal district court dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint against the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for failure to state a claim, holding that Plaintiffs' complaint failed to state a plausible claim for breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied under Massachusetts law. Plaintiffs, a married couple, submitted their dispute with their quondam stockbroker over the handling of their brokerage accounts to FINRA for arbitration. A panel of arbitrators summarily dismissed Plaintiffs' claims. Plaintiffs then brought this action claiming that the arbitrators' failure to state an explained decision breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court appropriately dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint because Plaintiffs did not plausibly allege a breach of the implied covenant. View "Lanza v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority" on Justia Law
Depuy Synthes Sales, Inc. v. Orthola, Inc.
DePuy manufactures medical instruments. Its Los Angeles area exclusive distributor was OrthoLA. The agreement included an arbitration provision. When that distribution arrangement ended, OrthoLA sued in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging tort and contract claims. DePuy moved, unsuccessfully, to refer those claims to arbitration. DePuy appealed and filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association. Three days later, DePuy filed this suit in the federal district court in Indianapolis, seeking an order compelling arbitration and an injunction against the state court proceedings. The district court stayed the case, pending the resolution of the California action. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The lawsuits are parallel by any definition. Evaluating the “exceptional circumstances,” the court reasoned that the risk of splintering this litigation was great: functionally identical suits in two places creates a high risk of inconsistent results and wasteful duplication. The California courts were the first to take jurisdiction; that litigation is well along the road to resolution. The state courts are co-equal partners with the federal courts in protecting federal rights. The court speculated that “DePuy’s decision to open a second front in its effort to obtain arbitration just three days after it filed its appeal in the California courts was at best opportunistic and at worst manipulative.” View "Depuy Synthes Sales, Inc. v. Orthola, Inc." on Justia Law