Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order denying a petition to vacate an arbitration award and granting a petition to confirm it. In this case, the arbitrator did not comply with several applicable disclosure requirements, which gave rise to multiple grounds for disqualification. The court held that the arbitrator was actually aware of at least one of the grounds for disqualification, and thus the resulting arbitration award was subject to vacatur. The court held that, by not disclosing the four pending arbitration with counsel for Chase, the arbitrator violated the continuing disclosure duties under Ethics standard 7(d). View "Honeycutt v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order denying Atria's petition to compel arbitration. The court held that the integration clause in an agreement the parties signed did not preclude proof of the arbitration agreement. The trial court made no findings regarding either substantive or procedural unconscionability because it found the integration clause to be dispositive. Therefore, the court remanded to the trial court with directions to consider other objections raised by respondents to the arbitration agreement. View "Williams v. Atria Las Posas" on Justia Law

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Smythe, a driver for both Uber and Lyft, claimed that Uber directed its drivers and others to use fake Lyft accounts to request rides, sending Lyft drivers on “wild goose chases.” He asserted claims for unfair business practices and intentional interference with prospective economic damage on behalf of a putative class of Lyft drivers. Uber moved to compel arbitration. Smythe signed agreements containing an arbitration provision that “applies to any dispute arising out of or related to this Agreement or termination of the Agreement … without limitation, to disputes arising out of or related to this Agreement and disputes arising out of or related to your relationship with the Company …. to disputes regarding any city, county, state or federal wage-hour law, trade secrets, unfair competition, compensation, breaks and rest periods, expense reimbursement, termination, harassment and claims arising under [several specific laws] and all other similar ... claims. This Agreement is intended to require arbitration of every claim or dispute that lawfully can be arbitrated.” The agreement's delegation clause states that the disputes subject to arbitration include "disputes arising out of or relating to interpretation or application of this Arbitration Provision, including the enforceability, revocability or validity .... All such matters shall be decided by an arbitrator and not by a court.” The court of appeal affirmed that Smythe’s allegations were beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement and that the delegation provision was unenforceable in this context. View "Smythe v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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James Zenovic, doing business as James Zenovic Construction (Zenovic), appealed an order denying his petition to compel arbitration in an action filed by Von Becelaere Ventures, LLC (VBV). The trial court determined Zenovic waived his right to compel arbitration by filing a separate complaint in Orange County to foreclose on a mechanics lien without complying with provisions in Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.51 to preserve his arbitration rights. Zenovic contended the court misread and misapplied section 1281.5, which he contended should only have applied to the mechanics lien action and should not have operated to preclude arbitration of the separate action filed by VBV. The Court of Appeal disagreed: "section 1281.5 'means what it says: A party who files an action to enforce a mechanic's lien, but who does not at the same time request that the action be stayed pending arbitration, waives any right to arbitration.'" The Court, therefore, affirmed the order. View "Von Becelaere Ventures, LLC v. Zenovic" on Justia Law

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The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters does not permit Chinese citizens to be served by mail, nor does it allow parties to set their own terms of service by contract. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of a motion to set aside a default judgment against SinoType, a Chinese company. In this case, the trial court acknowledged that the service of the summons and petition had not complied with the Hague Service Convention, but concluded that the parties had privately agreed to accept service by mail. The court held, however, that SinoType was never validly served with process, and thus no personal jurisdiction by the court was obtained and the resulting judgment was void as violating fundamental due process. View "Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia) III v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co." on Justia Law

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The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters does not permit Chinese citizens to be served by mail, nor does it allow parties to set their own terms of service by contract. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of a motion to set aside a default judgment against SinoType, a Chinese company. In this case, the trial court acknowledged that the service of the summons and petition had not complied with the Hague Service Convention, but concluded that the parties had privately agreed to accept service by mail. The court held, however, that SinoType was never validly served with process, and thus no personal jurisdiction by the court was obtained and the resulting judgment was void as violating fundamental due process. View "Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia) III v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co." on Justia Law

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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