Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
by
Isabel Garcia, an employee of RAC Acceptance East, LLC (RAC), filed a lawsuit against RAC, Stoneledge Furniture LLC (Stoneledge), and Inderjit Singh, alleging ten claims related to sexual harassment. RAC, Stoneledge, and Singh sought to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement they claimed Garcia electronically signed during her employment onboarding process. Garcia denied signing the agreement and argued that RAC failed to prove she executed the agreement.The trial court denied the petitions to compel arbitration. It found that while RAC had initially shown an agreement to arbitrate by providing the agreement, Garcia's denial of signing the agreement shifted the burden back to RAC to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that her electronic signature was authentic. The court found that RAC failed to meet this burden as the declaration provided by RAC did not present sufficient details of the onboarding process to establish how Garcia must have signed the agreement. The court also found that the agreement did not have the appearance of an electronically signed document created in Taleo, the third-party electronic workforce management platform used by RAC.On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California First Appellate District Division Three affirmed the trial court's decision. The appellate court found that the trial court did not err in deciding whether any agreement to arbitrate existed in the first place, rather than delegating that decision to an arbitrator. The appellate court also found that RAC failed to prove the existence of the arbitration agreement. The court concluded that RAC's evidence did not show that only Garcia could have placed the electronic signature on the arbitration agreement. The court also found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying RAC’s request for an evidentiary hearing. View "Garcia v. Stoneledge Furniture LLC" on Justia Law

by
Five diabetic patients, Henry J. Hebert, Traci Moore, Aliya Campbell Pierre, Tiffanie Tsakiris, and Brenda Bottiglier, were prescribed the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (Dexcom G6) to manage their diabetes. The device allegedly malfunctioned, failing to alert them of dangerous glucose levels, resulting in serious injuries and, in Hebert's case, death. The patients and Hebert's daughters filed separate product liability actions against Dexcom, Inc., the manufacturer. Dexcom moved to compel arbitration, arguing that each patient had agreed to arbitrate disputes when they installed the G6 App on their devices and clicked "I agree to Terms of Use."The trial court granted Dexcom's motions to compel arbitration in all five cases. The plaintiffs petitioned the appellate court for a writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate its orders compelling them to arbitrate. The appellate court consolidated the cases and issued an order directing Dexcom to show cause why the relief sought should not be granted.The appellate court concluded that the trial court erred. Although a clickwrap agreement, where an internet user accepts a website’s terms of use by clicking an “I agree” or “I accept” button, is generally enforceable, Dexcom’s G6 App clickwrap agreement was not. The court found that Dexcom undid whatever notice it might have provided of the contractual terms by explicitly telling the user that clicking the box constituted authorization for Dexcom to collect and store the user’s sensitive, personal health information. For this reason, Dexcom could not meet its burden of demonstrating that the same click constituted unambiguous acceptance of the Terms of Use, including the arbitration provision. Consequently, arbitration agreements were not formed with any of the plaintiffs. The court granted the petitions and directed the trial court to vacate its orders granting Dexcom’s motions to compel arbitration and to enter new orders denying the motions. View "Herzog v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
The case involves the interpretation of Section 3 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which outlines procedures for enforcing arbitration agreements in federal court. The petitioners, current and former delivery drivers for an on-demand delivery service operated by the respondents, filed a lawsuit alleging violations of federal and state employment laws. The respondents moved to compel arbitration and dismiss the suit. The petitioners agreed that their claims were arbitrable but argued that Section 3 of the FAA required the District Court to stay the action pending arbitration rather than dismissing it entirely. The District Court issued an order compelling arbitration and dismissed the case without prejudice. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the decision.The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the Ninth Circuit's decision. The Supreme Court held that when a district court finds that a lawsuit involves an arbitrable dispute and a party has requested a stay of the court proceeding pending arbitration, Section 3 of the FAA compels the court to issue a stay, and the court lacks discretion to dismiss the suit. The Court reasoned that the statutory text, structure, and purpose all point to this conclusion. The Court further explained that the FAA's structure and purpose confirm that a stay is required. The Court concluded that staying rather than dismissing a suit comports with the supervisory role that the FAA envisions for the courts. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Smith v. Spizzirri" on Justia Law

by
The case involves the Government of Romania's appeal against three judgments that confirmed an international arbitral award. The dispute originated from Romania's adoption of tax incentives to encourage investment in certain economically "disfavored" regions of the country. The Micula brothers and associated entities built food production facilities in Romania relying on these incentives. However, Romania repealed most of the tax incentives in 2005 in preparation to join the EU, leading the Miculas to file for arbitration in 2005.The district court confirmed the award in 2019 and entered judgment for $356,439,727, net of payments made and with interest. Romania challenged the subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the arbitration clause in the Sweden-Romania BIT was void as of Romania’s 2007 accession because EU law prohibits intra-EU agreements to arbitrate EU law disputes between a member state and the citizens of another member state. The district court ruled EU law was inapplicable because the parties’ dispute predated Romania’s EU membership and the award did not “relate to the interpretation or application of EU law.”In 2022, Romania sought relief from the 2019 Confirmation, and ensuing sanctions, arguing that two decisions of the EU’s highest court in 2022 held that “the agreement to arbitrate in the [Sweden-Romania] BIT was void the moment that Romania entered the EU.” The district court denied the motion, concluding that the CJEU Decisions did not hold Romania’s accession retroactively voided its pre-EU consent to arbitrate.The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Romania's Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment. The court held that the district court's jurisdictional analysis was not premised on the "interpretation and application of EU law." Rather, the district court independently found the requisite "jurisdictional fact" under the arbitration exception of an agreement to arbitrate with the Miculas. The court also found that the 2022 CJEU decisions did not support the interpretation that Romania’s 2007 accession to the EU retroactively rendered the preexisting agreement to arbitrate with Swedish investors “void ab initio.” View "Micula v. Government of Romania" on Justia Law

by
Jennifer D. Aldea-Tirado, an employee of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC), filed a lawsuit against her employer alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, and Puerto Rico law. Aldea-Tirado claimed she was subjected to adverse employment action due to her gender and pregnancy and was retaliated against for filing a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. PWC, however, argued that Aldea-Tirado's employment contract contained an arbitration clause and moved to compel arbitration.The United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico granted PWC's motion to compel arbitration. The court determined that PWC had established the existence of a valid agreement between PWC and Aldea-Tirado to arbitrate her claims. The court also found that Aldea-Tirado had tacitly consented to the Agreement by continuing to work for PWC after having received the Agreement through both regular mail and email. Aldea-Tirado appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court found no merit in Aldea-Tirado's arguments that she did not receive the Agreement or that it was unconscionable to hold her to it. The court also rejected Aldea-Tirado's contention that she was not given "some minimal level of notice" that her continued employment would effect a waiver of her right to pursue her claims in a judicial forum. The court concluded that Aldea-Tirado failed to show that there was any non-speculative basis in the record from which a reasonable factfinder could determine that she did not receive the email to which the Agreement was attached. View "Aldea-Tirado v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP" on Justia Law

by
The case revolves around the death of Skyler A. Womack (Skyler) at Silverscreen Healthcare, Inc., a skilled nursing facility. Skyler's parents, Jonie A. Holland (Holland) and Wayne D. Womack (Wayne), filed a lawsuit against Silverscreen, alleging dependent adult abuse and negligence on behalf of Skyler, as well as their own claim for wrongful death. Silverscreen moved to compel arbitration of the entire complaint based on an arbitration agreement between Skyler and Silverscreen.The Superior Court of Los Angeles County granted Silverscreen’s motion to compel arbitration for the survivor claims but denied the motion for the wrongful death cause of action. The court reasoned that the parents did not have an enforceable arbitration agreement with Silverscreen. The court's decision was heavily influenced by the case Avila v. Southern California Specialty Care, Inc.Silverscreen appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District. The appellant argued that, according to Ruiz v. Podolsky, the parents are bound by the arbitration agreement signed by Skyler, and therefore, the parents’ wrongful death claim should be subject to arbitration. The appellate court agreed with Silverscreen, stating that Ruiz governs this matter. Consequently, under Ruiz and Code of Civil Procedure section 1295, the parents’ wrongful death claim must go to arbitration along with Skyler’s survivor claims. The court reversed the trial court's decision and remanded the case with directions. View "Holland v. Silverscreen Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Yuriria Diaz, a former employee of Macy's West Stores, Inc., filed a lawsuit under the California Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) for alleged violations of California's labor code. Macy's appealed the district court's order compelling arbitration of all Diaz's claims. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration of Diaz's individual PAGA claims, but vacated the order to the extent it compels arbitration of her non-individual claims.Previously, the district court had compelled arbitration of all Diaz's claims, interpreting the arbitration agreement between Diaz and Macy's to include non-individual PAGA claims. The court denied Diaz's request for a stay and closed the case, stating there were no remaining claims before the court.The Ninth Circuit concluded that it had jurisdiction to review the district court's order as a final decision with respect to arbitration. The court found that at the time of contracting, the parties consented only to arbitration of individual claims relating to Diaz's own employment. The agreement's language was strongly indicative of an intent to exclude any amalgamation of employees’ claims—including non-individual PAGA claims—from arbitration.The court rejected Macy's request that the district court on remand be instructed to dismiss the non-individual claims because under a recent California Supreme Court decision, those claims cannot be dismissed. The court remanded with instruction to treat the non-arbitrable non-individual claims consistent with the California Supreme Court’s decision, anticipating that the parties will, per their agreement, request a stay with respect to those claims. View "Diaz v. Macy’s West Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The case involves the Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO) and its affiliates, who sued several medical practices in separate actions in the District of New Jersey. GEICO alleged that the practices defrauded them of more than $10 million by abusing the personal injury protection (PIP) benefits offered by its auto policies. The practices allegedly filed exaggerated claims for medical services, billed medically unnecessary care, and engaged in illegal kickback schemes. GEICO's suits against the practices each included a claim under the New Jersey’s Insurance Fraud Prevention Act (IFPA).The practices sought arbitration of GEICO’s IFPA claim, arguing that a valid arbitration agreement covered the claim and that a different New Jersey insurance law allowed them to compel arbitration. However, each District Court disagreed, ruling instead that IFPA claims cannot be arbitrated. The practices appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.The Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower courts' decisions, holding that claims under the IFPA are arbitrable. The court found that GEICO's argument that the IFPA implicitly prohibits arbitration was not persuasive. The court also concluded that GEICO’s IFPA claims must be compelled to arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), as the claims fell under the scope of the arbitration agreement in GEICO's Precertification and Decision Point Review Plan. The court remanded the case with instructions to compel arbitration of GEICO’s IFPA claims against the practices. View "GEICO v. Caring Pain Management PC" on Justia Law

by
The case involves a dispute between Andrew Reynosa and his former employer, Advanced Transportation Services, Inc. (ATS). Reynosa had signed an arbitration agreement with ATS during his employment. After leaving the company, he filed a complaint for damages against ATS, which was then moved to arbitration as per the agreement. However, Reynosa later filed a motion to withdraw from arbitration, arguing that ATS had twice failed to pay the required arbitration fees within the stipulated 30-day period, thereby waiving its right to compel him to proceed with arbitration.The Tulare County Superior Court denied Reynosa's motion to withdraw from arbitration. The court found that the parties had mutually agreed to extend the deadline for payment of the arbitration fees, and ATS had paid the fees within the extended deadline. Therefore, the court concluded that ATS had not materially breached the arbitration agreement.Reynosa then petitioned the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fifth Appellate District, seeking a writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate its order and grant his motion to withdraw from arbitration. The appellate court granted Reynosa's request for a stay of the arbitration proceedings and issued an order to show cause why writ relief should not be granted.The appellate court concluded that the superior court had erroneously denied Reynosa's motion to withdraw from arbitration. The court found that ATS had materially breached the arbitration agreement by failing to pay the arbitration fees within the stipulated 30-day period. The court held that Reynosa was entitled to withdraw from arbitration and proceed in a court of appropriate jurisdiction. The court issued a writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate its order and grant Reynosa's motion to withdraw from arbitration. The court also ordered the superior court to address Reynosa's requests for sanctions under the relevant code of civil procedure. View "Reynosa v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
The case involves Ramon Dejesus Cedeno, an employee of Strategic Financial Solutions, LLC, and a participant in its Strategic Employee Stock Ownership Plan. Cedeno sued the company, its trustee Argent Trust Company, and other defendants under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), alleging that a transaction caused the Plan to incur substantial losses and that Argent breached fiduciary duties owed to Plan participants. The defendants moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), pointing to a provision in the Plan’s governing document that required Plan participants to resolve any claims related to the Plan in arbitration.The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied the motion, reasoning that the agreement was unenforceable because it would prevent Cedeno from effectuating rights guaranteed by Congress through ERISA, namely, the plan-wide relief available under Section 502(a)(2) to enforce the rights established in ERISA Section 409(a).On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the arbitration provision is unenforceable because it would prevent Cedeno from pursuing the Plan-wide remedies Sections 409(a) and 502(a)(2) unequivocally provide. The court concluded that the entire arbitration provision is null and void due to a non-severability clause in the Plan. View "Cedeno v. Sasson" on Justia Law