Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

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Appeals consolidated for the Delaware Supreme Court’s review centered on the Rent Increase Justification Act, which governed rent increases in manufactured home communities. The Rehoboth Bay Manufactured Home Community (the “Community”) was owned/managed by Hometown Rehoboth Bay, LLC (“Hometown”). The Appellant in Case No. 139, 2020 was Rehoboth Bay Homeowners’ Association (the “HOA”), the homeowners’ association. The Appellants in Case No. 296, 2020 were two individual tenants, John Iacona and Robert Weymouth. Hometown sought to raise the rents in both cases: in case No. 296, 2020, rents would be raised an amount in excess of the Consumer Price Index for this area (the “CPI-U”), for the calendar year 2017; in case No. 139, 2020, for the calendar year 2018. Under the Act, proposed rent increases that exceed the CPI-U must be justified by certain factors. Separate arbitrators in both cases found that a Bulkhead Stabilization project performed by Hometown in phases over more than one year was a capital improvement or rehabilitation work, which, along with other capital improvements and other expenses, justified rent increases in excess of the CPI-U in both years. The Appellants claimed the Superior Court erred by affirming the arbitrators’ decisions that the Bulkhead Stabilization project was a “capital improvement or rehabilitation work” and not “ordinary repair, replacement, and maintenance.” They also claimed the Superior Court should have ruled that the Act did not permit Hometown to incorporate the capital improvement component of the rent increases into each lot’s base rent so as to carry those increases forward into ensuing years. The Delaware Supreme Court concluded the Superior Court’s rulings on the Bulkhead Stabilization project as a capital improvement or rehabilitation work was correct, however, the Act did not permit Hometown to incorporate the capital improvement component of the 2017 and 2018 rent increases into a lot’s base rent for succeeding years after recovering that lot’s full, proportionate share of those costs in those years. Therefore, the Superior Court’s judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the cases remanded for further proceedings. View "Rehoboth Bay Homeowners' Assoc, et al. v. Hometown Rehoboth Bay" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Joanna Grabowski brought claims for medical malpractice against Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Southern California Permanente Medical Group, and various associated physicians (collectively, Kaiser). The claims were heard by an arbitrator, pursuant to a contractual arbitration agreement. After a contested hearing, the arbitrator awarded judgment in favor of Kaiser. Grabowski petitioned the trial court to vacate the arbitration award, alleging: (1) the arbitrator committed misconduct, and revealed disqualifying bias, by engaging in an ex parte communication with Kaiser’s counsel about Grabowski’s self-represented status; (2) the arbitrator failed to disclose two matters involving Kaiser where he was selected as an arbitrator; and (3) the arbitrator improperly denied Grabowski’s request for a continuance of the arbitration hearing. The trial court found that “the arbitrator’s conduct did not rise to a level that substantially prejudiced [Grabowski’s] rights” and dismissed her petition. Grabowski appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal agrees the award should have been vacated. The Court concluded the arbitrator committed misconduct on several levels, at least one required vacating the arbitration award. The ex parte communication between the arbitrator and Kaiser’s counsel was recorded by Grabowski’s mother as part of her effort to document the arbitration hearing; the audio recording revealed comments by the arbitrator making light of Grabowski’s self- representation and her inability, in the arbitrator’s view, to effectively represent herself. The arbitrator volunteered these comments to Kaiser’s counsel, ex parte, and “they shared a hearty laugh about Grabowski’s perceived shortcomings as an advocate.” Because the arbitrator was aware of this communication and did not disclose it to Grabowski, the award had to be vacated. View "Grabowski v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming an arbitration award denying the claims brought by Asociacion de Empleados del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico (AEELA), holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by confirming the award.AEELA was a private financial institution serving Puerto Rico government employees. AEELA suffered major investment losses when, in 2013, the market for municipal bonds in Puerto Rico crashed. AEELA initiated arbitration with UBS Financial Services, Inc., its former financial consultant, before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and a panel of arbitrators entered an award denying AEELA's claims. AEELA sought to vacate the award, arguing that one of the arbitrators had failed to disclose his professional connections to UBS. The district court confirmed the arbitration award. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that AEELA did not meet its burden of showing that the arbitrator was partial to UBS. View "UBS Financial Services Inc. v. Asociacion de Empleados del Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico" on Justia Law

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Four business partners had a dispute that ultimately led to a nine-day arbitration hearing. During the hearing, the arbitrator openly took pain medications. After the arbitrator issued a final ruling, the two losing partners filed a petition in the trial court to vacate the arbitration award. They alleged for the first time, that the arbitrator was “unable to properly perceive the evidence or . . . unable to properly conduct the proceeding.” The trial court denied the petition based on principles of forfeiture: the losing partners failed to demand, at any point during the nine-day hearing, that the arbitrator needed to disqualify himself. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court, thus affirming the order denying the petition to vacate the arbitration award. View "Alper v. Rotella" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Uber's motion to compel arbitration in an action brought by plaintiff, alleging a single cause of action for wage violations under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), Lab. Code, 2698 et seq. Plaintiff was an Uber driver under a written agreement stating she was an independent contractor and all disputes would be resolved by arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and the agreement delegated to the arbitrator decisions on the enforceability or validity of the arbitration provision.The court concluded, as has every other California court presented with this or similar issues, that the threshold question of whether plaintiff is an employee or an independent contractor cannot be delegated to an arbitrator. The court found that this issue has been resolved adversely to Uber in two cases decided during and after briefing in this case: Provost v. YourMechanic, Inc. (2020) 55 Cal.App.5th 982, and Contreras v. Superior Court (2021) 61 Cal.App.5th 461. The court was not persuaded to depart from the analyses in Provost and Contreras and all the authorities they cite. The court rejected Uber's claims to the contrary and affirmed the trial court's order. View "Rosales v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendant on Plaintiff's challenge to an arbitration award in favor of Defendant, holding that the district court did not err.After Plaintiff was summarily dismissed from his employment he challenged his dismissal by filing a complaint and submitting the grievance to arbitration pursuant to his union's collective bargaining agreement with the union. The arbitrator issued an arbitral award dismissing Plaintiff's complaint. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's petition for judicial review. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the arbitrator's ruling was not in manifest disregard of the law. View "Torres-Burgos v. Crowley Liner Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court compelling Plaintiff to arbitrate his claims of wrongful death and negligence against Signature HealthCARE of East Louisville, holding that arbitration was required on all claims.To secure his father's admittance into Signature, a long-term care facility, Plaintiff signed an arbitration agreement as his father's authorized representative. After his father died, Plaintiff brought a negligence and wrongful death claim against Signature. Signature filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that Plaintiff's wrongful death claim was arbitrable because he signed the arbitration agreement in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that both Plaintiff's individual claims and that claims he brought as the representative of his father's estate were subject to arbitration. View "LP Louisville East, LLC v. Patton" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit dismissed based on lack of appellate jurisdiction plaintiffs' appeal from the district court's order compelling arbitration of a putative class action alleging that LuLaRoe operated an illegal endless-chain pyramid scheme in violation of California and federal law.The panel held that Langere v. Verizon Wireless Services, LLC, 983 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2020), was controlling under these circumstances. In this case, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their action with prejudice in an attempt to obtain an appealable final judgment following an order compelling arbitration. Furthermore, as in Langere, this tactic no longer creates appellate jurisdiction. The panel explained that, contrary to plaintiffs' contention, it is of no consequence that plaintiffs moved for a court order dismissing their action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(2), while Langere unilaterally dismissed his action under Rule 41(a)(1). Finally, plaintiffs' contention that Langere is inapplicable because the panel has jurisdiction under 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(3) is without merit. View "Sperring v. LLR, Inc." on Justia Law

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The arbitration award at issue here involved claims by a former investment fund manager and his former employers, namely, the investment funds. All parties were sophisticated and engaged in a business - not consumer - dispute. Both law firms were frequent users of the services of the ADR provider, JAMS. The motion to vacate was based on the sole ground that the arbitrator did not disclose the extent of JAMS’s “business relationship” with O’Melveny & Myers (one of the law firms) and the arbitrator’s ownership interest in JAMS (not more than .1 percent of total revenue in a given year). Appellant contended the arbitrator failed to make required disclosures. The sole basis for the appeal was the argument the arbitrator did not disclose information that could cause a reasonable person aware of the facts to entertain a doubt that the arbitrator would be able to be impartial. The trial court granted a motion to confirm an arbitration award and denied a motion to vacate that award. Based on the facts and circumstances shown by this record, and applying the analytical framework the Court of Appeal held that the arbitrator’s and JAMS’s disclosures were sufficient, and the arbitrator was not required to disclose more information about the extent of JAMS’s business with O’Melveny & Myers, or the arbitrator’s own ownership interest in JAMS. "There is no issue of a repeat party or lawyer being favored over a non-repeat party or lawyer; the parties in this business dispute are sophisticated; and the law firms were both frequent users of JAMS to the same extent." View "Speier v. The Advantage Fund, LLC" on Justia Law

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Respondents-Appellants DynaResource de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. and DynaResource, Inc. (“DynaResources”) appealed the district court’s confirmation of an arbitration award in Applicant-Appellee Goldgroup’s favor. This case involves a protracted dispute over a contract relating to a gold mining operation in Mexico. Goldgroup is a subsidiary of a Canadian company with a portfolio of projects in Mexico. DynaUSA, a Texas-based company, incorporated DynaMexico specifically for the purpose of developing the San Jose de Gracia property in the Sinaloa region of Northern Mexico. In 2006, Goldgroup and DynaResources entered into an Earn In/Option Agreement (the “Option Agreement”) which gave Goldgroup the right to earn up to a 50 percent equity interest in DynaMexico if Goldgroup invested a total of $18 million in four phases over approximately four years. The Option Agreement contained a dispute resolution provision specifying that “[a]ll questions or matters in dispute under this Agreement shall be submitted to binding arbitration . . . in Denver, Colorado under the Rules of the American Arbitration Association (‘AAA’) by a single arbitrator selected by the parties.” The Option Agreement also states that Mexican law applies “in respect to the shares of DynaMexico and the acquisition thereof,” and that venue and jurisdiction for any dispute under the Option Agreement would be in Denver. In 2011, Goldgroup exercised its option, became a 50 percent shareholder in DynaMexico, and appointed two directors. However, before the parties could agree on the fifth director, their relationship broke down due to a dispute over management issues. In 2012, DynaResources filed the first of numerous lawsuits between the parties; Goldgroup defended in part by arguing that DynaResources’s claims were subject to arbitration. Finding no reversible error to the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Goldgroup Resources v. Dynaresource De Mexico" on Justia Law