Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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Defendant Jeffrey Mayhew and Plaintiffs David Starr and Thomas Hunt formed a limited liability company to operate a shopping center. They agreed Mayhew would manage the company and Starr and Hunt would provide startup capital. In exchange, Mayhew was entitled to 50 percent of the company’s profits and Starr and Hunt were entitled to the remaining 50 percent. After the shopping center’s business declined in 2008, Mayhew asked Starr and Hunt for additional capital. They agreed to do so only if Mayhew also contributed capital. Mayhew reported a $100,000 contribution, which caused Starr and Hunt to contribute roughly the same amount. The shopping center was later sold for a substantial profit. Mayhew claimed he was entitled to about 56.3 percent ownership interest in the company based on his additional capital contribution. Starr and Hunt disagreed and submitted the dispute to arbitration along with several other claims for damages. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Starr and Hunt, finding Mayhew only held a 50 percent interest in the company. A superior court later confirmed the award over Mayhew’s petition to vacate and entered judgment against him. On appeal, Mayhew claimed the trial court erred by failing to vacate the award, contending the arbitrator lacked authority to clarify the award, that the award was procured by undue means, and that the arbitrator’s award exceeded her powers. After its review, the Court of Appeal disagreed. Since Mayhew failed to identify any basis for vacating the award, the Court affirmed the judgment. View "Starr v. Mayhew" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They brought an action in district court on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case. The court explained that it concludes that an individual works in a transportation industry if the industry in which the individual works pegs its charges chiefly to the movement of goods or passengers, and the industry’s predominant source of commercial revenue is generated by that movement. Here, because Plaintiffs do not work in the transportation industry, they are not excluded from the FAA, and the district court appropriately compelled arbitration under the Arbitration Agreement. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court finding that Plaintiff did not waive its right to arbitration by its litigation-related conduct, holding that reversal was required in light of Morgan v. Sundance, Inc., __ U.S. __ (2022).Plaintiff sued Defendant for breach of contract. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, arguing that Plaintiff waived its breach of contract claim under the parties' agreement by filing suit on the claim rather than commencing it in arbitration. Plaintiff subsequently filed a demand for arbitration and a motion to stay the case for arbitration. The district court granted Plaintiff's motion to stay the case, concluding that Defendant suffered no prejudice because of Plaintiff's litigation-related conduct. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that prejudice is not required to prove a party waived its right to stay a court case pending arbitration under section 3 of the Federal Arbitration Act following the United States Supreme Court's decision in Morgan. View "Kingery Construction Co. v. 6135 O Street Car Wash, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Los Angeles College Faculty Guild (Guild) represents faculty at the nine community colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District (District). The Guild appeals the trial court’s judgment of dismissal of its petition to compel arbitration of grievances relating to the District’s decision to cancel all remedial for-credit English and mathematics courses two levels below transfer level. The Guild contends the court erred in determining it, rather than an arbitrator, should decide the issue of arbitrability and further erred in finding the grievances non-arbitrable. The Guild maintains the grievances involve violations of several provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the parties and so are subject to the arbitration provision of that agreement.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s order denying the motion and petition and its subsequent judgment of dismissal. The court explained that the decision to cancel remedial for-credit English and mathematics courses two levels before transfer level is, in essence, a decision about the content of courses and curriculum. Put differently, it is a decision not to offer courses that contain such content. Thus, it is a matter within the discretion of the district, and so not within the scope of representation. It is therefore not an arbitrable issue.   The Guild makes much of the fact that the courses were canceled after they were placed on the tentative schedule for Fall 2019. The Guild, however, does not assert any schedule-related harm from the timing of the decision. Thus, the trial court’s conclusion that there was no arbitrable claim under Article 17(D)(1)(b) was correct. View "L.A. College Faculty Guild etc. v. L.A. Community College Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Eleni Gavriiloglou brought this action against her former employer and its alleged alter egos. She asserted, among other things: (1) individual claims for damages based on Labor Code violations; and (2) a representative claim for civil penalties for Labor Code violations under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA). Gavriiloglou had signed an arbitration agreement, so the trial court compelled her to arbitrate her non-PAGA claims and stayed her PAGA claim while she did. The arbitrator found that the alleged Labor Code violations had not occurred. The trial court then granted judgment on the pleadings against Gavriiloglou on her PAGA claim, ruling that the arbitrator’s findings established that she was not an “aggrieved employee” within the meaning of PAGA, and therefore that she lacked standing to bring a PAGA claim. Gavriiloglou appealed, contending: (1) the trial court erred by denying her petition to vacate the arbitration award; and (2) the trial court erred by ruling that the arbitration award barred her PAGA claim. The Court of Appeal found that the trial court properly denied the motion to vacate the arbitration award. However, the Court also held that the arbitration did not bar the PAGA claim because Gavriiloglou was acting in different capacities and asserting different rights. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Gavriiloglou v. Prime Healthcare Management" on Justia Law

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Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (“HVCU”) appealed from the district court’s ruling denying HVCU’s motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s putative class action claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and claims under New York law and the Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling, holding that the record was insufficiently developed for the district court to deny the motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the record is insufficiently developed on the issue of whether the parties entered into an agreement to arbitrate and, as a consequence, the court wrote it cannot determine the matter of arbitrability “as a matter of law.” Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider further evidence or, if necessary, hold a trial.   The court further explained that it was an error for the district court to engage in the inquiry notice analysis based on the copy of the Internet Banking Agreement, which does not depict the content and design of the webpage as seen by users signing up for online banking. The court wrote that on remand, the district court should consider the design and content of the Internet Banking Agreement as it was presented to users in determining whether Plaintiff assented to its terms. And the district court should assess whether the Account Agreements are clearly identified and available to the users based on the court’s precedents. View "Zachman v. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming certain damages awarded to The University of Notre Dame (USA) in England (Notre Dame) by a foreign arbitral tribunal in a contractual dispute relating to construction defects, holding that Notre Dame's petition for judicial confirmation of the awards was not time-barred.Notre Dame brought this action against TJAC Waterloo, LLC and ZVI Construction Co., who were, respectively, the seller and renovator of a dormitory that Notre Dame had agreed to purchase. The dispute was submitted to arbitration. After the arbitrator entered the awards, Notre Dame moved the district court to confirm the awards and entered summary judgment in its favor. The district court granted Notre Dame's request for judicial confirmation. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Notre Dame's motion for judicial confirmation was not time-barred. View "University of Notre Dame (USA) in England v. TJAC Waterloo, LLC" on Justia Law

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Xylem, which sells large-capacity water pumps, requested that Field develop hardware to interface with the pumps and computer software for monitoring and controlling the equipment. A 2013 “NonDisclosure Agreement” contained an arbitration provision. Xylem purchased the units from Field via written Purchase Orders and purchased monthly subscriptions that permitted Xylem’s customers to use Field’s software via cellular networks to monitor and control their Xylem pumps. There was no written agreement governing Xylem’s software subscription purchases until the 2017 “Software Subscription Service Agreement,” which contained an “integration clause” stating that “[t]his Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties with respect to its subject matter and supersedes any and all prior or contemporaneous understandings or agreements.” The 2017 contract contained no arbitration provision, instead requiring any “action under or concerning” that contract to be litigated in New Jersey. Xylem began building its own hardware.Field sued, in New Jersey, for breach of the 2017 contract. In discovery, Xylem sent Field an interrogatory asking whether it intended to rely on the 2013 contract to support any of its claims. Field responded that Xylem breached the 2013 contract by its actions. Xylem then filed an arbitration demand. The district court held that the 2017 agreement superseded the earlier contract, eliminating any duty to arbitrate. The Third Circuit vacated in part. The district court was authorized to determine whether the second agreement superseded the first but the first agreement was not superseded. View "Field Intelligence Inc v. Xylem Dewatering Solutions Inc" on Justia Law

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OneMain, a non-bank finance company, loaned Zirpoli $6,200.08, to be repaid at a rate of 26.91% (total $11,364.35). The loan was issued under the Consumer Discount Company Act (CDCA), a consumer protection statute, which creates an exception to Pennsylvania’s usury law. The loan is governed by a disclosure statement, a security agreement, and an arbitration agreement. Later, OneMain sold delinquent accounts to Midland, including Zirpoli’s loan. Midland sued Zirpoli but later dismissed the suit and undertook collection efforts.Zirpoli filed a class action, alleging that Midland’s collection activities constituted an unlawful attempt to collect the loan because Midland does not have a CDCA license and never obtained nor requested approval from the Department of Banking. Midland was, therefore, not lawfully permitted to purchase the loan. Midland moved to compel arbitration. The court denied the motion, focusing on the validity of the assignment from OneMain and Midland. The Third Circuit vacated. The ultimate illegality of a contract does not automatically negate the parties’ agreement that an arbitrator should resolve disputes arising from the contract. The parties to the loan clearly agreed to arbitrate the issue of arbitrability. The arbitration agreement provides that an arbitrator shall resolve the arbitrability of defenses to enforcement, including alleged violations of state usury laws. View "Zirpoli v. Midland Funding LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a local delivery driver for Cintas Corporation. That means he picked up items from a Houston warehouse (items shipped from out of state) and delivered them to local customers. Lopez does not want to arbitrate his claims against Cintas. He says that he is exempt from doing so because he belongs to a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce” under Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act.   The Fifth Circuit partially affirmed the district court’s ruling finding that Plaintiff is not a “transportation worker” under Section 1 of the FAA. However, because Plaintiff's unconscionability challenge to his employment agreement must be decided in arbitration, the court vacated and remanded for that claim to be dismissed without prejudice to be considered in arbitration in the first instance.   The court explained that unlike either seamen or railroad employees, the local delivery drivers here have a more customer-facing role, which further underscores that this class does not fall within Section 1’s ambit. As a result, the transportation-worker exemption does not apply to this class of local delivery drivers. Further, because unconscionability under Texas law is a challenge to the validity, not the existence, of a contract, that challenge must be resolved by an arbitrator. Thus, the court held that the district court erred in resolving the merits of Plaintiff’s unconscionability claim. View "Lopez v. Cintas" on Justia Law