Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's confirmation of an arbitrator's award under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Bechtel and its former employee entered arbitration on the employee's claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, and retaliation. The court held that the district court correctly concluded it had jurisdiction to entertain the motions submitted by both parties. On the merits, the court held that Bechtel's first argument, that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by misapplying Fifth Circuit law, misunderstands the limited review of arbitration awards under the FAA. The court was also correct in denying vacatur based on Bechtel's claim that the arbitration rules agreed to by the parties required the arbitrator to follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which, according to Bechtel, did not authorize the arbitrator to reconsider its interim award that only granted $500 in nominal damages. The court explained that Bechtel's argument ignores the fact that the employee dispute resolution program also contains a provision stating that either party may file a motion for reconsideration with the arbitrator. View "Quezada v. Bechtel OG & C Construction Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court overruling Dollar Tree's motion to compel arbitration and stay proceedings on a former employee's claim of disability discrimination, holding that the order was supported by substantial evidence, was not against the weight of the evidence, and correctly applied the law. After Plaintiff, Dollar Tree's former employee, brought this complaint Dollar Tree filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay proceedings under an arbitration agreement in the employment contract. The parties, however, disputed whether there was assent to the arbitration agreement. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration after hearing testimony but did not make any findings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no clear and unmistakable evidence of the existence of assent to a delegation provision, and therefore, the circuit court could not delegate the matter to an arbitrator whose existence depended upon the agreement. View "Theroff v. Dollar Tree Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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On remand from the district court, the Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to debtor in an action arising from the nonpayment of a promissory note. The court held that the district court did not give proper weight to the evidence before it; the evidence construed most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, the Foundation, was that debtor waited until after the entry of final judgment to assert an arbitration defense; and neither debtor nor the district court has pointed to a single case in which a party waited until after the entry of final judgment to raise the right to arbitration without defaulting that right. Rather, the court held that, in such circumstances, courts have typically found default of the right to arbitrate, even in cases involving domestic judgments. In this case, given the dueling deposition testimony, the court held that a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether debtor asserted his right to arbitrate during proceedings in the Iraqi trial court. View "Iraq Middle Market Development Foundation v. Mohammad Harmoosh" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's confirmation of an arbitral award over the objection that the arbitrator had exceeded his authority. In the final award, the arbitrator found that CSC breached the Exceed Agreement and concluded that Kemper was entitled to damages. The magistrate judge recommended that the award be confirmed and the district court adopted the magistrate judge's report and recommendations. The court held that the final award was subject to a very deferential review where the arbitrator did not exceed the scope of his contractual authority by classifying and awarding damages to Kemper. The court also held that the arbitrator did arguably construe the parties' contract, and the arbitral award must stand. View "Kemper Corporate Services, Inc. v. Computer Sciences Corp." on Justia Law

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On remand from the district court, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Catamaran's motion for summary judgment. Pursuant to recent Supreme Court precedent in Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, 139 S. Ct. 1407, 1416-17 (2019), an ambiguous agreement cannot provide the necessary contractual basis to conclude that the parties agreed to class arbitration. Therefore, the court must determine whether there is an affirmative contractual basis to conclude that the parties agreed to class arbitration. The court held that there was no contractual basis to conclude that the parties agreed to class arbitration. In this case, the agreements were not inconsistent with individual arbitration and do not support the conclusion that the parties intended class arbitration and believed that intent was so evident from the terms of the written agreements that it was unnecessary to express that intent within the agreements themselves. View "Catamaran Corp. v. Towncrest Pharmacy" on Justia Law

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Psara Energy appealed the district court's order granting a motion to refer to arbitration this action alleging breach of contract, fraudulent transfer and corporate succession theories against the Advantage Defendants. The Fifth Circuit dismissed the appeal based on lack of appellate jurisdiction because the district court's order, which administratively closed the case, is not a final, appealable order under the Federal Arbitration Act. In this case, the collateral order doctrine does not apply to orders concerning arbitration governed by the FAA, and 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(3) is inapplicable to referrals to arbitration in admiralty cases that do not determine a party's substantive rights or liabilities. View "Psara Energy, Ltd. v. Advantage Arrow Shipping, LLC" on Justia Law

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Catic, a California corporation with Chinese corporate parentage, appealed the district court's confirmation of an adverse arbitral award. The arbitration panel awarded Soaring Wind Energy $62.9 million against Catic and ordered that Catic be divested of its shares in Soaring Wind Energy without compensation. The Fifth Circuit held that it had subject matter jurisdiction because this case related to an arbitration agreement or award falling under the NY Convention. In this case, a Chinese entity's actions on foreign soil could (and did) trigger breach for one of the Soaring Wind Energy's (domestic) members, and the arbitral award holds those Chinese affiliates jointly and severally liable for damages to the claimants. Therefore, such factors were enough for the agreement to bear a relation to China sufficient for federal jurisdiction under the NY Convention. The court held that whether Catic's non-signatory affiliates themselves be subject to the arbitration is irrelevant, because Catic assumed the obligation of its affiliates. Therefore, the district court did not err by confirming the award without first reviewing the arbitrators' power over Catic's Chinese affiliates. The court also held that the arbitration panel was not improperly constituted, and the award was not improper. The court rejected Catic's claims to the contrary and affirmed the arbitration award. View "Soaring Wind Energy, LLC v. Catic USA Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Luzetta Murphy-Sims appealed after a jury ruled in favor of Defendant-Appellee Owners Insurance Company (Owners) on her complaint against Owners' insured stemming from a car accident. The insured was at fault; Murphy-Sims maintained that she suffered extensive injuries, and consequently incurred significant medical costs, as a result of the accident. In February 2014, she sent Owners a letter demanding settlement claiming $41,000 in medical expenses. Owners timely replied with a request for more information. When Murphy-Sims failed to reply, Owners sent two additional follow-up requests. Finally, in June 2014, Murphy-Sims provided Owners with some of the requested information. It did not offer a settlement payment in response. In July 2014, Murphy-Sims sued the insured. The parties agreed roughly three weeks later to enter into a Nunn agreement, which bound the matter over to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Murphy-Sims approximately $1.3 million and judgment was entered against the insured. Pursuant to the agreement, Murphy-Sims did not execute on the judgment. In March 2016, Murphy-Sims, standing in the insured's shoes as permitted under the Nunn agreement, filed the underlying lawsuit against Owners in state district court, claiming Owners breached its contract with Switzer and had done so in bad faith. Owners removed the suit to federal court and the case proceeded to trial. The jury ultimately found that Owners did not breach its contract with the insured, thereby declining to award $1.3 million in damages to Murphy-Sims. The jury did not reach the bad faith claim having been instructed that it need not be reached in the absence of a breach of contract. After review of Murphy-Sims arguments on appeal, the Tenth Circuit determined the district curt committed no reversible error, and affirmed its judgment. View "Murphy-Sims v. Owners Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Metz appealed the district court's judgment vacating an arbitration award that held that interest rate assumptions for purposes of withdrawal from a multiemployer pension plan liability are those in effect on the last day of the year preceding the employer's withdrawal. The district court held, however, that section 4213 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) does not require actuaries to calculate withdrawal liability based on interest rate assumptions used prior to an employer's withdrawal from a plan, and that interest rate assumptions must be affirmatively reached and may not roll over automatically from the preceding plan year. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment, holding that interest rate assumptions for withdrawal liability purposes must be determined as of the last day of the year preceding the employer's withdrawal from a multiemployer pension plan. Furthermore, absent any change to the previous plan year's assumption made by the Measurement Date, the interest rate assumption in place from the previous plan year will roll over automatically. Accordingly, the court remanded with directions to enter judgment for Metz and to remand any remaining issues to the arbitrator. View "The National Retirement Fund v. Metz Culinary Management, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Hospital has approximately 1,100 employees. About 500 are represented by the Union. Supervisors are not included in the bargaining unit. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) provides that [v]acation will, so far as possible, be granted at times most desired by employees; but the final right to allow vacation periods, and the right to change vacation periods[,] is exclusively reserved to the Hospital. Any changes in vacation schedules may be realized by mutual consent. In the event the Hospital unilaterally changes a schedule causing the employee to suffer financial loss, the Hospital agrees to reimburse the employee for provable loss. Konsugar requested vacation during the week of December 25, 2017. The Hospital denied her request because her supervisor had requested that same week off and both could not be away at the same time. Konsugar filed a grievance. The arbitrator stated he could not “conclude that the subsequent reservation of exclusivity in allocating vacations entirely to the Hospital completely negates . . . ‘so far as possible’” and sustained the grievance. In a suit under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185, the Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Hospital. The arbitrator’s decision disregarded the plain language of the CBA, ignored the intentions of the parties, and failed to construe such provision to give effect to all parts of the provision. View "Monongahela Valley Hospital, Inc. v. United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial & Service Workers International Union" on Justia Law