Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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In adversary bankruptcy proceedings, debtor filed suit against Tower Loan for allegedly violating the Truth in Lending Act (TILA). The district court affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of Tower Loan's motion to dismiss or compel arbitration. The Fifth Circuit reversed, holding that the parties reached a valid agreement to arbitrate and delegated threshold arbitrability issues to the arbitrator. Applying the two analytical steps in Kubala v. Supreme Prod. Servs., Inc., 830 F.3d 199, 201 (5th Cir. 2016), the court applied Mississippi state law to determine that the parties' two arbitration agreements should be construed as one contract. The court also held that the parties entered into a valid contract to arbitrate despite inconsistencies in the non-essential contractual terms. Finally, the court held that the arbitrator should decide whether debtor's TILA claim was arbitrable and remanded. View "Tower Loan of Mississippi, LLC v. Willis" on Justia Law

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A collective bargaining agreement between Local 1982 and Midwest consisted of a Master Agreement (MA), formed between the parties’ affiliated regional employer group and the union, and a Local Agreement. The union filed a grievance for Midwest's failure to establish and contribute to benefit trust plans under MA Section 5.5A. Midwest responded that it considered the grievance procedurally invalid. The Union escalated the grievance to Step Two under the MA, referral to a Joint Grievance Committee comprised of an employer representative and a union representative. Midwest refused to participate; the hearing went forward without Midwest. The Committee determined that Midwest had failed to comply with Section 5.5A. Midwest did not appeal the unfavorable award, which became final. The union filed suit to enforce it. The Sixth Circuit directed the district court to enforce the award. The parties returned to court over ambiguities in the award's content. The Sixth Circuit affirmed a remand to the Committee, rejecting Midwest’s argument that it complied with the award by negotiating about terms of the trust agreement. After the remand but before clarification of the award, the composition of the two-person Committee changed. The new Committee deadlocked. Local 1982 sought to escalate the grievance to Step 3 with an expanded grievance committee. The Sixth Circuit agreed. The award did not lose its effect simply because the original Committee cannot agree on clarification of its contents. Grievance procedure Step Three specifies that if a grievance “is not satisfactorily settled or adjusted in Step 2, it shall be referred to an Expanded Joint Grievance Committee.” View "Local 1982, International Longshoremen v. Midwest Terminals of Toledo" on Justia Law

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Renovate America, Inc. (Renovate) appealed an order denying its petition to compel arbitration of Rosa Fabian's claims related to the financing and installation of a solar energy system in her home. Fabian filed a complaint against Renovate alleging that solar panels she purchased for her home were improperly installed. Fabian alleged that, in early 2017, Renovate made an unsolicited telephone call to her home about financing the solar panels and "signed" her name on a financial agreement. All communications between Fabian and Renovate's representative occurred telephonically and she was never presented with any documents to sign. Fabian claims she did not sign a financial agreement with Renovate; nevertheless, Renovate incorporated the solar panel payments set forth in the financial agreement into her mortgage loan payments. Fabian thus alleged that Renovate violated: (1) the Consumers Legal Remedies Act; (2) the Unfair Competition Law; and (3) the California Contract Translation Act. Renovate petitioned to compel arbitration of Fabian's claims and stay judicial proceedings pending arbitration, supported by an Assessment Contract (Contract) that Renovate claimed Fabian had signed electronically. Renovate contended the trial court erred in ruling that the company failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Fabian electronically signed the subject contract. The Court of Appeal found that by not providing any specific details about the circumstances surrounding the Contract's execution, Renovate offered little more than a bare statement that Fabian "entered into" the Contract without offering any facts to support that assertion. "This left a critical gap in the evidence supporting Renovate's petition." The Court therefore affirmed denial of the petition to compel arbitration. View "Fabian v. Renovate America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of appellants' motion to compel arbitration. The complaint alleged claims that were predicated on a massive insurance contract steering and kickback fraud conspiracy that spanned the period from 2001 to 2016. The court held that the district court failed to resolve -- in the proper manner -- factual disputes regarding whether Berkeley Schools agreed to arbitrate the claims alleged in the complaint. Accordingly, 9 U.S.C. 4 requires that those disputes must be resolved in trial proceedings and thus the court remanded. View "Berkeley County School District v. HUB International Limited" on Justia Law

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Under the LACBA's Rules for Conduct of Mandatory Arbitration of Fee Disputes Pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 6200 et seq., service is complete at the time of deposit in the mail and not extended for service by mail. In this case, the Court of Appeal held that the arbitration award became binding when the attorney did not file an action within 30 days after service, and section 6206 did not extend the deadline. Therefore, the attorney was barred under Code of Civil Procedure section 1288 from asserting a ground that supports vacating the award, because the attorney did not file a petition or a response within 100 days of service of the award. Furthermore, even if the attorney was not barred from raising arbitrability issues, the LACBA rules provide that the arbitrator has the authority to determine jurisdiction and the arbitrator’s ruling that the fee dispute was arbitrable was not reviewable for errors of law or fact. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's judgment denying the petition to confirm the arbitration award. View "Soni v. SimpleLayers, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed the district court's order vacating an arbitration award, contending that the district court did not properly defer to the arbitrator's decision. Plaintiff cross appealed. In this case, defendant issued a crop insurance policy to plaintiff, a South Dakota farmer, in 2015 and subsequently determined that the appraised value of plaintiff's crop exceeded his policy's guaranteed minimum crop production, denying his claim. The Eighth Circuit held that the arbitrator did not exceed his powers because the dispute about the interpretation of "appraised value" was not even before the arbitrator. Furthermore, the arbitrator's findings supported the denial of plaintiff's claims on a different ground -- that he abandoned his crop -- despite plaintiff's argument to the contrary in his cross appeal. The court also held that, even if the arbitrator did exceed his powers by making a good farming practices determination, the error was harmless because he did not exceed his powers in denying plaintiff's claim based on the appraised value of plaintiff's crop. Accordingly, the court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded to the district court to enter an order confirming the arbitration award. View "Balvin v. Rain and Hail, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court declining to compel arbitration of class claims under the parties' agreement in this case, holding that the lower courts applied the correct legal standards in declining to compel class arbitration. This arbitration dispute between homeowners and their home warranty company evolved into a putative class action complaining about releases the warranty allegedly demanded before making covered repairs. Plaintiffs demanded arbitration, asserting that Defendant was required to arbitrate the class claims under the arbitration provisions in the warranty. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the question of whether the parties agreed to class arbitration was a question of arbitrability for the court to make and that the warranty agreement did not permit class arbitration. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) arbitratibility of class claims is a gateway issue for the court unless the arbitration agreement clearly and unmistakably expresses a contrary intent; (2) an agreement to arbitrate class claims cannot be inferred from silence or ambiguity, but rather, an express contractual basis is required; and (3) the lower courts correctly determined that Defendant was not bound to arbitrate Plaintiffs' putative class claims. View "Robinson v. Home Owners Management Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment compelling arbitration of grievances raised by airlines in a dispute with the collective bargaining representatives of their pilots. The court held that the district court properly granted the employers' motion for summary judgment and to compel arbitration. The court held that the management grievances did not involve a major dispute; rejected the Union's argument that the case raised issues of representation that would fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board; and held that the district court did not err in exercising jurisdiction over the dispute. The court also held that Atlas's motion to compel arbitration of its management grievance was timely. Finally, the court rejected the Union's three arguments with respect to the arbitrability of the employers' management grievances. In this case, Southern was entitled to file a management grievance with the Southern Board regarding the interpretation of Section 1.B.3 of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA); the district court correctly determined that it lacked authority to decide whether the merger provisions of the Atlas CBA were prompted by the announced operational merger of Atlas and Southern; and nothing in the process of interpreting the provisions of the two collective bargaining agreements purports to bind Atlas or Southern pilots to the terms of another existing CBA. View "Atlas Air, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court refusing to enforce an arbitration agreement, holding that individuals may agree to arbitrate a dispute regarding a cloud on the title to real estate. Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract whereby Plaintiff would convey almost 1,000 acres of mineral interests to Defendant. The contract contained an arbitration clause requiring the parties to refer any dispute about the parties' performance of the contract to arbitration. Later, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment to determine whether a cloud on the title to the mineral interests existed. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and to compel the parties to arbitrate. The circuit court refused the motion, finding that Plaintiff's claims fell outside the scope of the arbitration clause because, as a matter of public policy, property rights are not subject to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) parties may agree to submit to arbitration questions concerning clouds on the title to any estate, right, or interest in real property despite W. Va. Code 51-2-2(d) vesting circuit courts with jurisdiction to resolve those questions; and (2) there was an, enforceable agreement to arbitrate here, and the parties' controversy fell within the scope of that arbitration agreement. View "Golden Eagle Resources,II, LLC v. Willow Run Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court overruling Appellant's motion to dismiss and compel arbitration, holding that Mo. Rev. Stat. 435.355 obligated the circuit court to order the parties to proceed to arbitration under the circumstances of this case. Prior to his discharge from the hospital, Theron Ingram executed a written Durable Power of Attorney naming Andrea Nicole Hall as his attorney in fact. Ingram was subsequently admitted to Brook Chateau, and Hall executed an arbitration agreement with Brook Chateau on Ingram's behalf. Ingram later filed a petition against Brook Chateau alleging negligence and seeking punitive damages. Brook Chateau responded by filing a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The circuit court overruled the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court was required under section 435.355 to compel arbitration because Brook Chateau attached a valid arbitration agreement alongside its motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. View "Ingram v. Chateau" on Justia Law