Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff Gerriann Fagan appealed a circuit court order granting defendant Warren Averett Companies, LLC's motion to compel arbitration. Fagan was the owner of The Prism Group, LLC, a human-resources consulting firm. In February 2015, Warren Averett approached her and asked her to join Warren Averett and to build a human-resources consulting practice for it. In February 2015, she agreed to join Warren Averett, entering into a "Transaction Agreement" which provided that: Fagan would wind down the operations of The Prism Group; Fagan would become a member of Warren Averett; Warren Averett would purchase The Prism Group's equipment and furniture; Warren Averett would assume responsibility for The Prism Group's leases; and that Warren Averett would assume The Prism Group's membership in Career Partners International, LLC. The Transaction Agreement further provided that Fagan would enter into a "Standard Personal Service Agreement" ("the PSA") with Warren Averett; that Fagan's title would be president of Warren Averett Workplace; and that Fagan would be paid in accordance with the compensation schedule outlined in the PSA. Fagan alleged that she subsequently resigned from Warren Averett when she was unable to resolve a claim that Warren Averett had failed to properly compensate her in accordance with the PSA. On or about February 28, 2019, Fagan filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association ("AAA"). The employment-filing team of the AAA sent a letter dated March 4, 2019, to the parties informing them of the conduct of the arbitration proceedings. On April 18, 2019, the employment-filing team notified the parties that Warren Averett had failed to submit the requested filing fee and that it was administratively closing the file in the matter. On April 30, 2019, Fagan sued Warren Averett in circuit court. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Warren Averett's failure to pay the filing fee constituted a default under the arbitration provision of the PSA. Accordingly, the trial court erred when it granted Warren Averett's motion to compel arbitration. View "Fagan v. Warren Averett Companies, LLC" on Justia Law

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Epstein, an optometrist, entered into a VSP “Network Doctor Agreement.” VSP audited of Epstein’s claims for reimbursement, concluded he was knowingly purchasing lenses from an unapproved supplier, and terminated the provider agreement. The agreement included a two-step dispute resolution procedure: the “Fair Hearing” step provided for an internal “VSP Peer Review.” If the dispute remained unresolved, the agreement required binding arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), under procedures set forth in the policy. A “Fair Hearing” panel upheld the termination.Instead of invoking the arbitration provision, Epstein filed an administrative mandamus proceeding, alleging the second step of the process was contrary to California law requiring certain network provider contracts to include a procedure for prompt resolution of disputes and expressly stating arbitration “shall not be deemed” such a mechanism. (28 Cal. Code Regs 1300.71.38.) He claimed that state law was not preempted by the FAA, citing the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which generally exempts from federal law, state laws enacted to regulate the business of insurance.The court of appeal affirmed the rejection of those challenges. State regulatory law requiring certain network provider agreements to include a dispute resolution process that is not arbitration pertains only to the first step of the dispute resolution process and does not foreclose the parties from agreeing to arbitration in lieu of subsequent judicial review. While the arbitration provision is procedurally unconscionable in minor respects, Epstein failed to establish that it is substantively unconscionable. View "Epstein v. Vision Service Plan" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration in an action brought by plaintiff, seeking damages and injunctive relief under the Fair Credit Reporting Act and state law. Plaintiff's claims arose from her purchase of the Experian Credit Score subscription service in 2014. Two versions of the Experian terms of use are at issue: the version to which plaintiff expressly agreed in 2014, and the 2018 version, which exempted some types of claims from binding arbitration.The panel held that a mere website visit after the end of a business relationship is not enough to bind parties to changed terms in a contract pursuant to a change-of-terms provision in the original contract. In this case, plaintiff's claims are arbitrable under the 2014 terms of the contract to which she assented. The panel held that, in order to bind parties to new terms pursuant to a change-of-terms provision, consistent with basic principles of contract law, both parties must have notice that the terms have changed and an opportunity to review the changes. Because plaintiff has not alleged that she had such an opportunity, the panel concluded that the 2018 terms did not form a valid contract. Furthermore, the contract permits judicial resolution of claims for public injunctive relief, but plaintiff has not alleged Article III standing for such a claim. Therefore, the panel concluded that the McGill rule does not excuse plaintiff from binding arbitration of her claims against Experian. View "Stover v. Experian Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

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Ohio law allows nonsignatory agents to compel arbitration under general principles of contract and agency law. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Navient's motion to compel arbitration against plaintiff. The court disagreed with the district court's finding that the relevant arbitration clause does not include Navient as a party and so Navient cannot compel arbitration. Rather, the court held that Ohio law permits plaintiff to compel arbitration as a nonsignatory agent of the holder of the loan. The court also held that Ohio's rule of alternate estoppel prevents plaintiff from disavowing the arbitration clause because his claim arises out of the same contract. Therefore, plaintiff is estopped from avoiding the arbitration clause because his claims are integrally intertwined with the contract containing the agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Neal v. Navient Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming an arbitrator's award, holding that the court properly affirmed the award.Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant seeking rescission of a contract of purchase and sale of dental practice and lease, alleging that fraudulent misrepresentations were made and that he relied upon them to his detriment. Because the contract contained an arbitration provision the district court sustained Defendant's motion to compel arbitration. The arbitrator concluded that Plaintiff ratified the contract through his conduct and waived any cause of action he might have had arising from his purchase of the dental practice. Plaintiff filed an application to vacate the arbitrator's award. The district court denied the motion. Thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to confirm the award, which the district court granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to consider Plaintiff's challenge to the denial of his application to vacate, but his challenge lacked merit; and (2) the district court did not err in confirming the arbitration award. View "Cinatl v. Prososki" on Justia Law

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Defendant YourMechanic, Inc. sought to compel plaintiff Jonathan Provost to arbitrate whether he was an “aggrieved employee” within the meaning of the California Labor Code before he could proceed under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) with his single-count representative action alleging various Labor Code violations against company. The Court of Appeal determined that requiring Provost to arbitrate whether he was an “aggrieved employee” with standing to bring a representative PAGA action would have required splitting that single action into two components: an arbitrable “individual” claim and a nonarbitrable representative claim. The Court concluded that a PAGA-only representative action was not an individual action at all, but instead was one that was indivisible and belonged solely to the state. Therefore, YourMechanic could not require Provost to submit by contract any part of his representative PAGA action to arbitration. The trial court therefore properly denied YourMechanic's motion. View "Provost v. YourMechanic, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2016, plaintiff-appellee Isaac Sutton went shopping for a vehicle at the defendant-appellant David Stanley Chevrolet, Inc.'s (hereafter DSC) car dealership. He agreed to purchase a 2016 Chevy Silverado on credit and he agreed to trade-in his 2013 Challenger. He was informed by DSC that his credit was approved. In addition, he was given $22,800.00 for the Challenger for which he still owed $25,400.00. The documents for the purchase of the vehicle amounted to approximately eighty-six pages, which included a purchase agreement and a retail installment sale contract (RISC). He left the dealership that evening with the Silverado and left his Challenger. Several days later he was informed by DSC that his financing was not approved and he would need a co-signor to purchase the Silverado. Sutton visited DSC but was then told he did not need a co-signor and there was no need to return the vehicle. At the end of June his lender for his 2013 Challenger contacted him about late payments. Sutton contacted DSC who said it was not their responsibility to make those payments since they did not own the Challenger he traded-in. A few days later, he was notified by DSC that his Challenger had been stolen and the matter was not the responsibility of DSC. Sutton had to make an insurance claim on his Challenger and DSC took back the Silverado. In the meantime, Sutton continued to make payments on the Challenger. Plaintiff and his wife Celeste Sutton sued DSC over the whole transaction involving the Challenger. DSC moved to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs alleged they were fraudulently induced into entering the arbitration agreement. The trial court found there was fraudulent inducement and overruled the motion to compel arbitration. The Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings concerning the unconscionability of the arbitration agreement. The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted certiorari, and found the trial court's order was fully supported by the evidence. The opinion of the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals was therefore vacated and the matter remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Sutton v. David Stanley Chevrolet" on Justia Law

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A federal whistleblower statute, 41 U.S.C. 4712, does not render unenforceable an arbitration agreement between plaintiff and his former employer, Intratek. The Fifth Circuit held that the district court correctly enforced the arbitration agreement between plaintiff and Intratek. However, the court held that the district court erred in compelling arbitration of claims not covered by that agreement. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Robertson v. Intratek Computer, Inc." on Justia Law

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Pfizer’s Human Resources Department sent an e-mail to Pfizer employees at their corporate e-mail addresses announcing Pfizer’s five-page Mutual Arbitration and Class Waiver Agreement (Agreement) and included a link to that document. The e-mail also included a included a link to a document that listed “Frequently Asked Questions,” including “Do I have to agree to this?” to which the response indicated, “The Arbitration Agreement is a condition of continued employment with the Company. If you begin or continue working for the Company sixty (60) days after receipt of this Agreement, it will be a contractual agreement that binds both you and the Company.” The “FAQs” document also encouraged any employee who had “legal questions” about the Agreement “to speak to [his or her] own attorney.” Pfize terminated Amy Skuse's employment in August 2017, and Skuse filed a complaint alleging that Pfizer and the individual defendants violated the Law Against Discrimination by terminating her employment because of her religious objection to being vaccinated for yellow fever. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint and to compel arbitration. Skuse opposed the motion, contending that she was not bound by Pfizer’s Agreement, arguing that she was asked only to acknowledge the Agreement, not to assent to it, and that she never agreed to arbitrate her claims. The trial court dismissed Skuse’s complaint and directed her to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the Agreement. The Appellate Division reversed, identifying three aspects of Pfizer’s communications to Skuse as grounds for its decision: Pfizer’s use of e-mails to disseminate the Agreement to employees already inundated with e-mails; its use of a “training module” or a training “activity” to explain the Agreement; and its instruction that Skuse click her computer screen to “acknowledge” her obligation to assent to the Agreement in the event that she remained employed for sixty days, not to “agree” to the Agreement. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, finding the Agreement was valid and binding, and held the trial court was correct in enforcing it. View "Skuse v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of DIRECTV's motion to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) in a putative class action brought under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).Under California contract law, the panel looked to the reasonable expectation of the parties at the time of the contract and held that a valid agreement to arbitrate between plaintiff and DIRECTV does not exist. The panel explained that, when plaintiff signed his wireless services agreement with AT&T Mobility so that he could obtain cell phone services, he could not reasonably have expected that he would be forced to arbitrate an unrelated dispute with DIRECTV, a satellite television provider that would not become affiliated with AT&T until years later. Furthermore, distinguishing Lamps Plus, Inc. v. Varela, 139 S. Ct. 1407 (2019), the panel concluded that DIRECTV fails to show that California's absurd-results canon disfavors arbitration agreements compared to other contracts, and the panel was not persuaded that the FAA preempts California's rule requiring that courts interpret contracts to avoid absurd results. The panel concluded that a federal court's role is limited to determining 1) whether a valid agreement to arbitration exists and, if it does, 2) whether the agreement encompasses the dispute at issue. View "Revitch v. DIRECTV, LLC" on Justia Law