Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Antitrust & Trade Regulation
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The San Diego City Attorney brought an enforcement action under the California Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. (UCL), on behalf of the People of California against Maplebear Inc. DBA Instacart (Instacart). In their complaint, the State alleged Instacart unlawfully misclassified its employees as independent contractors in order to deny workers employee protections, harming its alleged employees and the public at large through a loss of significant payroll tax revenue, and giving Instacart an unfair advantage against its competitors. In response to the complaint, Instacart brought a motion to compel arbitration of a portion of the City’s action based on its agreements with the individuals it hired (called "Shoppers"). The trial court denied the motion, concluding Instacart failed to meet its burden to show a valid agreement to arbitrate between it and the State. Instacart appealed, arguing that even though the State was not a party to its Shopper agreements, it was bound by its arbitration provision to the extent the State sought injunctive relief and restitution because these remedies were “primarily for the benefit of” the Shoppers. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and affirmed the trial court’s order. View "California v. Maplebear Inc." on Justia Law

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Under "loyalty contracts," Physician Buying Groups (PBGs) members are entitled to discounts if they buy a large enough percentage of their vaccines from Merck. The loyalty contracts include an arbitration provision. Membership contracts between PBGs and medical practices give medical practices discounts on Merck vaccines for enrolling in PBGs. PBGs contract with both Merck and medical practices and are middlemen but PBGs never possess the vaccines. Medical practices buy their vaccines directly from Merck, receiving discounts for belonging to a PBG. The Pediatricians, members of PBGs that contracted with Merck, never signed contracts containing an arbitration clause.The Pediatricians filed federal suits alleging Merck’s vaccine bundling program was anticompetitive. Merck moved to compel arbitration. On remand, following discovery, the district court again denied Merck’s motion and granted the Pediatricians summary judgment, reasoning that the Pediatricians were not bound under an agency theory. The Third Circuit reversed. The PBG membership contract made the PBG a “non-exclusive agent to arrange for the purchase of goods and services,” and the PBG acted on this authority by executing the loyalty contract with Merck that included the arbitration clause. The Pediatricians simultaneously demonstrated intent to create an agency relationship and exercised control over the scope of the PBG’s agency by contract. View "In re: Rotavirus Vaccines Antitrust Litigation v." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court judge confirming an arbitration award, holding that none of Appellant's legal theories for reversal were meritorious.KPJ Associates, LLC ran a daycare in Maine as a franchisee of Toddle Inn Franchising, LLC. When KPJ ended the franchise agreement on Friday and told Toddle it would open another daycare at the same site the following Monday Toddle filed a federal complaint alleging unfair competition under the federal Lanham Act and breach of contract and trade secret misappropriation under Maine law. Toddle then moved to compel arbitration and stay court proceedings. The judge compelled arbitration, and the arbitrator found for Toddle. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court judge (1) did not lack subject matter in this case because Toddle did not present a frivolous Lanham Act claim; (2) did not err in ruling that Toddle did not waive its right to arbitrate by its litigation conduct; and (3) did not err in awarding additional attorneys' fees and costs. View "Toddle Inn Franchising, LLC v. KPJ Associates LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Federal Trade Commission's "single document rule," promulgated under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301-2312, does not require the disclosure of a binding arbitration agreement.Petitioner bought a truck from Respondent. The parties' retail purchase order included a binding arbitration agreement for any dispute related to the truck's purchase. Petitioner eventually filed suit under the Act, and Respondent successfully moved to compel arbitration. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because it was not disclosed in a single document with other warranty terms, in violation of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) single document rule. The Fifth District affirmed, holding that a binding arbitration agreement is not an item covered by the single document rule's disclosure requirements. The Supreme Court approved the Fifth District's decision, holding that the existence of a binding arbitration agreement is not among the disclosures required by the FTC's single document rule. View "Krol v. FCA US, LLC" on Justia Law

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RDC is a direct purchaser and wholesaler of Remicade, the brand name of infliximab, a “biologic infusion drug” manufactured by J&J and used to treat inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. For many years, Remicade was the only infliximab drug available. That position was threatened when the FDA began approving “biosimilars,” produced by other companies and deemed by the FDA to have no clinically meaningful differences from Remicade. RDC alleged that J&J sought to maintain Remicade’s monopoly by engaging in an anticompetitive “Biosimilar Readiness Plan,” which consisted of imposing biosimilar-exclusion contracts on insurers that either require insurers to deny coverage for biosimilars altogether or impose unreasonable preconditions governing coverage; multi-product bundling of J&J’s Remicade with other J&J drugs, biologics, and medical devices; and exclusionary agreements and bundling arrangements with healthcare providers. RDC’s own contractual relationship with J&J is limited to a 2015 Distribution Agreement, which is not alleged to be part of J&J’s Plan. The Agreement contains an arbitration clause, applicable to any claim “arising out of or relating to the Agreement. Reversing the district court, the Third Circuit held that RDC’s antitrust claims do “arise out of or relate to” the Agreement and must be referred to arbitration. View "In re: Remicade (Direct Purchaser) Antitrust Litigation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Andrew Alwert and Stanley Feldman brought putative class actions against Cox Communications, Inc. (Cox) claiming that Cox violated antitrust law by tying its premium cable service to rental of a set-top box. The district court granted Cox’s motions to compel arbitration, then certified the orders compelling arbitration for interlocutory appeal. The Tenth Circuit granted Plaintiffs permission to appeal. They argued that the arbitration order was improper because: (1) the dispute was not within the scope of the arbitration agreement; (2) Cox waived its right to invoke arbitration; and (3) Cox’s promise to arbitrate was illusory, so the arbitration agreement was unenforceable. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitration clause in Plaintiffs’ subscriber agreements with Cox covered the underlying litigation and that Cox did not waive its right to arbitration. The Court did not resolve Plaintiffs’ argument that Cox’s promises were illusory because the argument amounted to a challenge to the contract as a whole, which was a question to be decided in arbitration. View "Alwert v. Cox Enterprises" on Justia Law

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Appellee, Peter Rosenow, brought a class-action complaint individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons against Appellants, Alltel Corporation and Alltel Communications, Inc. (collectively, Alltel), alleging violations of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and unjust enrichment arising from Alltel’s imposition of an early termination fee on its cellular-phone customers. Alltel filed a motion seeking to compel arbitration based on an arbitration clause contained in its “Terms and Conditions.” The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that Alltel’s arbitration provision lacked mutuality. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that a lack of mutuality rendered the instant arbitration agreement invalid. View "Alltel Corp. v. Rosenow" on Justia Law

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An agreement between American Express and merchants who accept American Express cards, requires that all of their disputes be resolved by arbitration and provides that there “shall be no right or authority for any Claims to be arbitrated on a class action basis.” The merchants filed a class action, claiming that American Express violated section 1 of the Sherman Act and seeking treble damages under section 4 of the Clayton Act. The district court dismissed. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the class action waiver was unenforceable and that arbitration could not proceed because of prohibitive costs. The Circuit upheld its reversal on remand in light of a Supreme Court holding that a party may not be compelled to submit to class arbitration absent an agreement to do so. The Supreme Court reversed. The FAA reflects an overarching principle that arbitration is a matter of contract and does not permit courts to invalidate a contractual waiver of class arbitration on the ground that the plaintiff’s cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery. Courts must rigorously enforce arbitration agreements even for claims alleging violation of a federal statute, unless the FAA mandate has been overridden by a contrary congressional command. No contrary congressional command requires rejection of this waiver. Federal antitrust laws do not guarantee an affordable procedural path to the vindication of every claim or indicate an intention to preclude waiver of class-action procedures. The fact that it is not worth the expense involved in proving a statutory remedy does not constitute the elimination of the right to pursue that remedy. View "Am. Express Co. v. Italian Colors Rest." on Justia Law

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An agreement between American Express and merchants who accept American Express cards, requires that all of their disputes be resolved by arbitration and provides that there “shall be no right or authority for any Claims to be arbitrated on a class action basis.” The merchants filed a class action, claiming that American Express violated section 1 of the Sherman Act and seeking treble damages under section 4 of the Clayton Act. The district court dismissed. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that the class action waiver was unenforceable and that arbitration could not proceed because of prohibitive costs. The Circuit upheld its reversal on remand in light of a Supreme Court holding that a party may not be compelled to submit to class arbitration absent an agreement to do so. The Supreme Court reversed. The FAA reflects an overarching principle that arbitration is a matter of contract and does not permit courts to invalidate a contractual waiver of class arbitration on the ground that the plaintiff’s cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery. Courts must rigorously enforce arbitration agreements even for claims alleging violation of a federal statute, unless the FAA mandate has been overridden by a contrary congressional command. No contrary congressional command requires rejection of this waiver. Federal antitrust laws do not guarantee an affordable procedural path to the vindication of every claim or indicate an intention to preclude waiver of class-action procedures. The fact that it is not worth the expense involved in proving a statutory remedy does not constitute the elimination of the right to pursue that remedy. View "Am. Express Co. v. Italian Colors Rest." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint against a check advance company, asserting claims based on numerous Florida statutes. Plaintiffs later amended the complaint to add Tiffany Kelly as an additional plaintiff and named class member. Because Kelly had signed the version of Defendant's arbitration agreement that contained a class action waiver, this case focused on her contracts with Defendant. The trial court eventually denied Defendant's motion to compel arbitration, ruling that the class action waiver was unenforceable because it was void as against public policy. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that no other reasonable avenue for relief would be available if it enforced the class action waiver. After the court of appeal decided this case, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion. Applying the rationale of Concepcion to the facts set forth in this case, the Supreme Court quashed the court of appeal's decision, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted invalidating the class action waiver in this case on the basis of the waiver being void as against public policy. View "McKenzie Check Advance of Fla., LLC v. Betts" on Justia Law