Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment of the trial court denying a petition to vacate an arbitration award in a dispute involving Benaroya Pictures and Westside Corporation and Bruce Willis. Michael Benaroya contended that the trial court erred in confirming the arbitration award because the decision whether a nonsignatory to an arbitration agreement can be compelled to arbitrate is a matter solely within the authority of the trial court, not the arbitrator. The court agreed and held that while the relevant JAMS rule here permits an arbitrator to determine whom among signatories to an arbitration agreement are proper parties for the dispute to be arbitrated, the rule cannot (and does not) permit the arbitrator to determine whether a nonsignatory to the arbitration agreement can be compelled to arbitrate. The court held that the authority to decide that question resides, by law, solely with the trial court. The court remanded with directions to set aside its rulings denying Michael Benaroya and Benaroya's petition to vacate the award and granting Westside and Willis' petition to confirm; and enter new orders granting Michael Benaroya and Benaroya's petition to vacate the award as to Michael Benaroya, and granting Westside and Willis' petition to confirm the award only as to Benaroya. View "Benaroya v. Willis" on Justia Law

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Nielsen Contracting, Inc. and T&M Framing, Inc. (collectively Nielsen) sued several entities (defendants) alleging these entities fraudulently provided workers' compensation policies to Nielsen that were illegal and contained unconscionable terms. Defendants moved to compel arbitration and stay the litigation under an arbitration provision in one defendant's contract, titled Reinsurance Participation Agreement (RPA). Nielsen opposed the motion, asserting the arbitration provision and the provision's delegation clause were unlawful and void. After briefing and a hearing, the trial court agreed and denied defendants' motion. Defendants appealed, arguing: (1) the arbitrator, and not the court, should decide the validity of the RPA's arbitration agreement under the agreement's delegation clause; and (2) if the court properly determined it was the appropriate entity to decide the validity of the delegation and arbitration provisions, the court erred in concluding these provisions are not enforceable. The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions and affirmed. View "Nielsen Contracting, Inc. v. Applied Underwriters, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Rae Weiler sought a declaration that defendants Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, Inc., et al., had to either: (1) pay plaintiff’s share of the costs in the previously ordered arbitration; or (2) waive their contractual right to arbitrate the underlying claims and allow them to be tried in the superior court. Plaintiff and her husband allegedly lost more than $2 million at the hands of defendants. She sued for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and elder abuse claims. After being ordered to arbitration and pursuing her claims in that forum for years, plaintiff asserted she could no longer afford to arbitrate. According to plaintiff, if she had to remain in arbitration and pay half of the arbitration costs (upwards of $100,000) she would be unable to pursue her claims at all. Plaintiff initially sought relief from the arbitrators (pursuant to Roldan v. Callahan & Blaine 219 Cal.App.4th 87 (2013)); they ruled it was outside their jurisdiction, and directed her to the superior court. So, plaintiff filed this declaratory relief action in the superior court, again seeking relief under Roldan. The Court of Appeal concluded, based primarily on Roldan, plaintiff may be entitled to the relief she seeks. However, the superior court granted summary judgment to defendants on the grounds the arbitration provisions were valid and enforceable, and that plaintiff’s claimed inability to pay the anticipated arbitration costs was irrelevant. This, the Court found, was error: “Though the law has great respect for the enforcement of valid arbitration provisions, in some situations those interests must cede to an even greater, unwavering interest on which our country was founded - justice for all.” Consistent with Roldan, and federal and California arbitration statutes, a party’s fundamental right to a forum she or he can afford may outweigh another party’s contractual right to arbitrate. In this case, the Court found triable issues of material fact regarding plaintiff’s present ability to pay her agreed share of the anticipated costs to complete the arbitration. The trial court therefore erred in granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment. View "Weiler v. Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Rae Weiler sought a declaration that defendants Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, Inc., et al., had to either: (1) pay plaintiff’s share of the costs in the previously ordered arbitration; or (2) waive their contractual right to arbitrate the underlying claims and allow them to be tried in the superior court. Plaintiff and her husband allegedly lost more than $2 million at the hands of defendants. She sued for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and elder abuse claims. After being ordered to arbitration and pursuing her claims in that forum for years, plaintiff asserted she could no longer afford to arbitrate. According to plaintiff, if she had to remain in arbitration and pay half of the arbitration costs (upwards of $100,000) she would be unable to pursue her claims at all. Plaintiff initially sought relief from the arbitrators (pursuant to Roldan v. Callahan & Blaine 219 Cal.App.4th 87 (2013)); they ruled it was outside their jurisdiction, and directed her to the superior court. So, plaintiff filed this declaratory relief action in the superior court, again seeking relief under Roldan. The Court of Appeal concluded, based primarily on Roldan, plaintiff may be entitled to the relief she seeks. However, the superior court granted summary judgment to defendants on the grounds the arbitration provisions were valid and enforceable, and that plaintiff’s claimed inability to pay the anticipated arbitration costs was irrelevant. This, the Court found, was error: “Though the law has great respect for the enforcement of valid arbitration provisions, in some situations those interests must cede to an even greater, unwavering interest on which our country was founded - justice for all.” Consistent with Roldan, and federal and California arbitration statutes, a party’s fundamental right to a forum she or he can afford may outweigh another party’s contractual right to arbitrate. In this case, the Court found triable issues of material fact regarding plaintiff’s present ability to pay her agreed share of the anticipated costs to complete the arbitration. The trial court therefore erred in granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment. View "Weiler v. Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal vacated an arbitration award in favor of a client against a law firm because the award was procured by "undue means" as that term was used in Code of Civil Procedure section 1286.2. As an initial matter, the court held that the law firm did not waive its right to appeal. On the merits, the court held that the trial court erred in confirming the arbitration award that took into consideration claims not made in the arbitration demand and to which the law firm was not given an adequate or meaningful opportunity to respond. View "Baker Marquart LLP v. Kantor" on Justia Law

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In July 2007, NMG, a luxury fashion retailer, notified its employees that acceptance of the NMG Arbitration Agreement was a mandatory condition of employment which would be implied for all employees who continued to work at NMG beyond July 15, 2007. Tanguilig unsuccessfully tried to negotiate its terms. Tanguilig chose not to return to work after July 15, and sued alleging, among other things: wrongful termination in violation of public policy; wrongful retaliation; wrongfully requiring employees to agree to allegedly illegal terms, failure to provide 10-minute rest periods and 30-minute meal periods and to pay overtime wages and minimum wage in violation of the Labor Code; and failure to pay wages owed at the time of discharge. Early in the proceedings, the court dismissed Tanguilig’s wrongful termination and related claims. Several years later, it dismissed the remaining claims under California’s five-year dismissal statute, Code of Civil Procedure 583.310. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Tanguilig’s argument that the trial court erred in failing to toll the five-year clock under section 583.340(c), for the period during which an order compelling a co-plaintiff to arbitration was in effect. Tanguilig made no factual showing that she could not have brought her claims to trial while that order was in effect View "Tanguilig v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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Starline appealed a judgment confirming an arbitration award in a contract dispute between EHM, dba TMZ, regarding Starline's duty to defendant TMZ in a lawsuit brought by Starline's bus drivers. After TMZ filed its petition to confirm the arbitration award, the JAMS appellate panel determined that Starline owed TMZ $41,429.92 in costs. The Court of Appeal affirmed the second judgment granting TMZ's petition to confirm the cost award. The court held that Starline failed to show that the one final judgment rule precluded confirmation of the cost award, and principles of waiver and estoppel did not preclude confirmation of the cost award. View "EHM Productions, Inc. v. Starline Tours of Hollywood, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order denying defendants' petition to compel arbitration of plaintiff's Ralph Act and Bane Act claims. The court held that the parties did not incorporate preempted state law into the arbitration agreement. The court also held that the Ralph Act and the Bane Act were preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act to the extent they conditioned the enforceability of arbitration agreements on compliance with special requirements not applicable to contracts generally. View "Saheli v. White Memorial Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying a petition to compel arbitration as to negligence and elder abuse claims of the deceased, Antonio Avila, and the wrongful death claim brought by his son. The court held that the trial court did not err by finding that no agreement to arbitrate existed as to the son. The court found no error in the trial court's exercise of its discretion under Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.2, subdivision (c), to refuse to enforce the arbitration agreement as to the remaining claims due to the risk of inconsistent judgments. View "Avila v. Southern California Specialty Care, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Tony Muro entered into an employment contract with defendant Cornerstone Staffing Solutions, Inc. (Cornerstone). The contract included a provision requiring that all disputes arising out of Muro's employment with Cornerstone to be resolved by arbitration. It also incorporated a class action waiver provision. In response to this case, which was styled as a proposed class action and alleged various Labor Code violations, Cornerstone moved to compel arbitration and dismiss the class claims. Relying heavily on Garrido v. Air Liquide Industrial, U.S. LP, 241 Cal.App.4th 833 (2015), the trial court concluded the contract was exempted from the operation of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA; 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq.) and was instead governed by California law. It further determined that the California Supreme Court's decision in Gentry v. Superior Court, 42 Cal.4th 443 (2007) (overruled by 59 Cal.4th 348(2014)) continued to provide the relevant framework for evaluating whether the class waiver provision in the contract was enforceable under California law. After applying Gentry to the record here, the court found the class waiver provision of the contract unenforceable and denied the motion to compel arbitration. Cornerstone appeals, but finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Muro v. Cornerstone Staffing Solutions" on Justia Law