Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business Law
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This case involves a dispute between siblings Elizabeth and Jason Carter, who are both licensed dentists and co-owners of Carter Dental. In 2020, Jason accused Elizabeth of misusing the practice’s funds for her personal benefit. The parties agreed to mediation, which resulted in a settlement agreement that included a noncompete clause. Elizabeth later refused to sign a written mutual release, leading Jason to move to enforce the settlement agreement. The district court found the settlement agreement and noncompete clause enforceable and dismissed the case with prejudice. Elizabeth appealed, arguing that the noncompete clause and the settlement agreement were unenforceable.The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed the district court's judgments. The court found that Elizabeth was estopped from arguing that the settlement agreement was unenforceable because she had not appealed the district court’s dismissal of the case with prejudice. The court also held that the district court did not err in awarding attorney fees and costs to Jason and Carter Dental. The court concluded that Jason and Carter Dental were entitled to attorney fees and costs on appeal. View "Carter Dental v. Carter" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around an employment dispute between Nelida Soltero and Precise Distribution, Inc. Soltero, who was placed at Precise Distribution by a temporary staffing agency, Real Time Staffing Services, filed a class action complaint against Precise Distribution for alleged failure to provide required meal periods and rest breaks to employees, among other claims. Precise Distribution sought to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement between Soltero and Real Time. However, Real Time was not a party to the lawsuit.The Superior Court of San Bernardino County denied Precise Distribution's motion to compel arbitration. Precise Distribution argued that it should be able to compel arbitration under the agreement between Soltero and Real Time, despite not being a party to it, based on theories of equitable estoppel, third-party beneficiary, or agency.The Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District Division One State of California, affirmed the lower court's decision. The court concluded that Precise Distribution was not a party to the arbitration agreement between Soltero and Real Time and could not compel arbitration based on the theories it proposed. The court found that Soltero's claims against Precise Distribution were not dependent upon or founded in the underlying contractual obligations of the agreement containing the arbitration clause. Furthermore, Precise Distribution was not an intended third-party beneficiary of the arbitration agreement, and there was no evidence of an agency relationship between Precise Distribution and Real Time. Therefore, the court affirmed the order denying Precise Distribution's motion to compel arbitration. View "Soltero v. Precise Distribution" on Justia Law

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The case involves Illinois Casualty Company (ICC) and thirty-three models who contested whether arbitration was appropriate based on the assignment of several business insurance policies that ICC issued to B&S of Fort Wayne, Inc., Showgirl III, Inc., and Reba Enterprises, LLC (collectively, "Insured Clubs"). The models alleged that the Insured Clubs used their images for social media advertisements without their consent. The Insured Clubs had insurance policies with ICC, which they tendered for defense and indemnification. ICC denied coverage, leading to a settlement agreement between the Insured Clubs and the models, assigning the Insured Clubs’ rights against ICC to the models.The trial court compelled arbitration between ICC and the models. On appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, finding that none of the models’ claims fell within the provision of the arbitration agreement. The models sought transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court.The Indiana Supreme Court held that an agreement to arbitrate in accordance with American Arbitration Association (AAA) rules constitutes “clear and unmistakable” intent to delegate arbitrability to an arbitrator. However, the court found that because no agreement to arbitrate existed between ICC and the Insured Clubs before 2016, the models could not compel arbitration for claims deriving from this period. The court affirmed in part and reversed in part, ruling that models with claims from 2016 and later could compel arbitration, but those with pre-2016 claims could not. View "Illinois Casualty Co. v. Burciaga" on Justia Law

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Carlos Ramirez, an employee, filed a class action lawsuit against his former employer, Golden Queen Mining Company, alleging various violations of the Labor Code and unfair competition. The employer moved to compel arbitration, but the trial court denied the motion, stating that the employer failed to demonstrate the existence of an executed arbitration agreement. The employer appealed, arguing that it had made a prima facie showing that a written arbitration agreement existed and that Ramirez’s statements that he did not recall being presented with or signing an arbitration agreement were insufficient to rebut its initial showing.The Superior Court of Kern County had initially denied the employer's motion to compel arbitration on the grounds that the employer failed to demonstrate the existence of an executed arbitration agreement. The court found that the employer's evidence, which included an unsigned arbitration agreement and a handbook acknowledgement purportedly signed by Ramirez, was insufficient to establish the existence of an arbitration agreement.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fifth Appellate District reversed the lower court's decision. The appellate court concluded that Ramirez did not provide sufficient evidence to rebut the employer’s initial showing that an arbitration agreement existed. The court found that Ramirez's failure to recall signing the document did not create a factual dispute about the signature’s authenticity. The court also noted that Ramirez’s declaration did not state whether he had reviewed the arbitration agreement or other documents purportedly signed by him, nor did it address whether he recalled signing the handbook acknowledgement, which included a statement that he agreed to the terms of the arbitration agreement. The court therefore reversed the order denying the motion to compel arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings to address Ramirez’s unconscionability defense. View "Ramirez v. Golden Queen Mining Co." on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between limited partners and general partners of MBC Properties, LP and MBC Development, LP, two entities engaged in real estate development, investment, acquisition, and management. The general partners appointed a special litigation committee (SLC) to investigate claims made by one of the limited partners, James W. Miller. The SLC recommended that the partnerships should not pursue any action against the general partner or any other third parties. Miller then filed a demand for arbitration, asserting derivative claims and requesting the arbitrator to determine whether the SLC complied with the Pennsylvania Uniform Limited Partnership Act of 2016 (PULPA).The Court of Common Pleas of Schuylkill County granted a petition to permanently stay the arbitration, concluding that Miller's challenge to the SLC report arose statutorily and not under the partnership agreements. The Superior Court vacated the trial court's order, finding that the underlying derivative claims were within the scope of the arbitration agreements and that the determination required by PULPA is a prerequisite and defense to those claims, rather than a cause of action.The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversed the Superior Court's decision, holding that the parties' agreements incorporated the plain language of Section 8694 of PULPA, which mandates court review of a special litigation committee's determination. The court concluded that the dispute over an SLC's determination pursuant to the PULPA is not within the scope of the parties' arbitration agreement. The court remanded the case for proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "MBC Development, LP v. Miller" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Winston Mar and SierraConstellation Partners, LLC (Sierra) and Lawrence Perkins (collectively, Sierra defendants). Mar, who was a partner in Sierra, sought a buyout of his partnership interest. Sierra defendants moved to compel arbitration of Mar's action, based on an arbitration agreement included in Sierra's employee handbook. Mar had refused to sign the arbitration agreement, stating that he would not be bound by it and that Sierra could terminate his employment if it objected. Sierra argued that Mar's continued employment for 19 months after the introduction of the arbitration agreement constituted assent to the agreement.The Superior Court of Los Angeles County denied Sierra defendants' motion to compel arbitration. The court found that Sierra defendants failed to meet their burden to establish the existence of an arbitration agreement because Mar clearly stated that he refused to sign the arbitration agreement and Sierra could terminate his employment if it objected.On appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, affirmed the lower court's decision. The appellate court held that while an employee's continued employment can generally be taken as assent to an arbitration agreement, this is not the case when the employee promptly rejects the arbitration agreement and makes clear he or she refuses to be bound by the agreement. In this case, Mar promptly and unequivocally rejected the arbitration agreement, and thus, there was no mutual assent to arbitrate. View "Mar v. Perkins" on Justia Law

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The case involves AURC III LLC, an Oregon limited liability company, and several Washington and Delaware limited liability companies collectively referred to as Point Ruston. Point Ruston purchased a 97-acre former copper smelter and environmental clean-up site located on the Puget Sound waterfront in Ruston and Tacoma, Washington, for $169,000,000 and developed it in phases. To fund the second phase of development, Point Ruston negotiated a $66 million loan from American United Development Group, which created AURC III LLC to raise and manage funds from foreign investors seeking United States residency. After disbursing the full amount of the loan, AURC filed an amended complaint against Point Ruston, alleging that Point Ruston was delinquent on interest payments in breach of its loan agreement. The superior court ordered Point Ruston and AURC to engage in arbitration as per their loan agreement.The arbitrator issued an interim award only on the amount of current and default interest due and awarded $10,969,015 to AURC. The arbitrator then issued a final award for the same amount, as well as awarding attorney fees and arbitration fees and expenses. In total, Point Ruston was required to pay over $11.4 million. AURC moved to confirm the award and for presentation of judgment. Initially, Point Ruston agreed AURC was “entitled to confirmation of the Award and entry of a Final Judgment” but opposed attaching the arbitrator’s awards to that judgment. Before the court could enter the written confirmation order and judgment, Point Ruston paid the award and filed a motion to dismiss the case as moot because no live dispute remained. After AURC alerted the court that it received the award amount from Point Ruston, the court denied the motion to dismiss. The court entered the confirmation order with the interim and final awards attached as exhibits, as well as a judgment against Point Ruston. AURC filed a full satisfaction of judgment.Point Ruston appealed on two grounds. It challenged (1) the superior court’s denial of the motion to dismiss and (2) the court’s decision to attach the arbitration awards to the confirmation order. Division Two of the Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion. Point Ruston sought review in the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, which was granted.The Supreme Court of the State of Washington held that when a party seeks a confirmation order, RCW 7.04A.220 requires issuance of the order subject to narrow exceptions inapplicable here. Payment of an arbitration award does not render the underlying case moot. The court also held that attaching an arbitrator’s award merely identifies the basis for the confirmation order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the Court of Appeals. View "AURC III, LLC v. Point Ruston Phase II, LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between Amazon and its delivery service partners (DSPs), who are business entities that entered into Delivery Service Program Agreements with Amazon. These agreements contained an arbitration provision, stipulating that disputes arising from the agreements would be resolved by binding arbitration conducted by the American Arbitration Association, rather than in court. The plaintiffs, who are or were DSPs, argued that the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) "transportation worker exemption" applied to them, which would exempt them from the FAA's coverage and allow them to bring their dispute to court.The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington rejected the plaintiffs' argument and granted Amazon's motion to compel arbitration, dismissing the case without prejudice. The plaintiffs appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the FAA's "transportation worker exemption" did not extend to business entities or to commercial contracts like the DSP Agreement. The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable. The court found that the arbitration agreement contained a delegation provision, which incorporated AAA rules delegating threshold issues to the arbitrator. The court concluded that the delegation provision was between sophisticated parties, incorporated the AAA rules, and therefore must be enforced. Thus, the plaintiffs' remaining unconscionability arguments directed at the arbitration agreement as a whole must be decided by the arbitrator. View "FLI-LO Falcon, LLC V. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to vacate the plaintiffs' quasi in rem attachment of a vessel owned by Bergshav Aframax Ltd., a defendant in an admiralty action seeking fulfillment of arbitration awards. The arbitration awards were owed to the plaintiffs by B-Gas Ltd., renamed Bepalo, a different corporate entity. The plaintiffs tried to hold Aframax liable for the arbitration awards by arguing that Aframax and Bepalo were alter egos, essentially the same entity.However, the court found that the plaintiffs failed to show a reasonable probability of success on their veil piercing theory, which would be required to establish that Aframax and Bepalo were alter egos. The court found that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate that Bepalo was dominated and controlled by the Bergshav Group, the parent corporate group of Aframax. The court noted that the minority shareholders of Bepalo exercised independent judgment in approving the relevant transactions, countering the claim that the Bergshav Group had total domination of Bepalo. Therefore, the court concluded that the plaintiffs had not met their burden of demonstrating a reasonable probability of success on their veil-piercing claim, leading to the affirmation of the district court's decision to vacate the attachment of the vessel. View "SIKOUSIS LEGACY, INC. V. B-GAS LIMITED" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard an appeal by Cathay Pacific Airways Limited, from a district court's decision denying its motion to compel arbitration in a class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs, Winifredo and Macaria Herrera, alleged that Cathay Pacific breached their contract by failing to issue a refund following flight cancellations for tickets they purchased through a third-party booking website, ASAP Tickets.The court ruled that when a non-signatory, in this case Cathay Pacific, seeks to enforce an arbitration provision, an order denying a motion to compel arbitration based on the doctrine of equitable estoppel is reviewed de novo. Applying California contract law, the court held that the plaintiffs' allegations that Cathay Pacific breached its General Conditions of Carriage were intimately intertwined with ASAP’s alleged conduct under its Terms and Conditions. Thus, it was appropriate to enforce the arbitration clause contained in ASAP’s Terms and Conditions.Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s denial of Cathay Pacific’s motion to compel arbitration and remanded with instructions to either dismiss or stay the action pending arbitration of the plaintiffs’ breach-of-contract claim. View "HERRERA V. CATHAY PACIFIC AIRWAYS LIMITED" on Justia Law