Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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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

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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

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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

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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

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The case involves Christine Matlock Dougherty, who sued U.S. Behavioral Health Plan, California (USB) for claims related to her son's healthcare. Dougherty's son, Ryan, was enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare HMO health plan, which Dougherty had access to through her employer. Ryan admitted himself into a residential treatment facility for severe drug addiction, but USB denied coverage for his stay after three days, arguing that he could be treated at home. Ryan fatally overdosed shortly after his discharge from the facility. Dougherty then sued USB, claiming that its wrongful denial of coverage for Ryan's treatment caused his death. USB petitioned to compel arbitration of her claims, but the trial court denied the petition, stating that USB's arbitration agreement was not enforceable because it did not comply with the disclosure requirements imposed by Health & Safety Code section 1363.1.The trial court denied USB's petition to compel arbitration on the grounds that the arbitration agreement did not comply with the disclosure requirements of Health & Safety Code section 1363.1. The court found that there were two separate contracts, one between Dougherty and UnitedHealthcare, and another between Dougherty and USB. The court ruled that the arbitration agreement in the supplement, which governed Dougherty's claims against USB, did not comply with section 1363.1's disclosure requirements.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Two reversed the trial court's decision. The appellate court concluded that USB forfeited its argument that the issue of whether the arbitration agreement was valid under the disclosure requirements of section 1363.1 was delegated to the arbitrator. However, the court agreed with USB that the trial court erroneously denied USB’s petition because USB complied with section 1363.1. The court found that the only "health care service plan" at issue that "includes terms that require binding arbitration" is Dougherty’s plan with UnitedHealthcare, which includes both the EOC and the supplement as components of the plan. Therefore, the court concluded that there was no section 1363.1 violation and reversed the trial court's order denying the petition to compel arbitration. View "Dougherty v. U.S. Behavioral Health Plan" on Justia Law

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The case involves Angel Mondragon, an employee of Sunrun Inc., who was required to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of his employment. The agreement covered most disputes related to Mondragon’s employment but excluded claims brought under the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA). After his employment ended, Mondragon filed a complaint asserting several causes of action under PAGA. Sunrun filed a motion to compel arbitration of Mondragon’s claims, which the trial court denied. Sunrun appealed the decision, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling on whether Mondragon’s claims were arbitrable.The Superior Court of Los Angeles County had previously denied Sunrun's motion to compel arbitration. The court ruled that it, not the arbitrator, should decide questions of arbitrability. The court also ruled that the arbitration agreement unambiguously excluded PAGA claims and did not differentiate between individual PAGA claims and PAGA claims brought on behalf of other employees.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Seven affirmed the decision of the lower court. The court concluded that Mondragon, an unsophisticated party, did not delegate arbitrability decisions to the arbitrator. The court also concluded that the language of the arbitration agreement did not require Mondragon to arbitrate his individual PAGA claims. Therefore, the court affirmed the decision of the lower court. View "Mondragon v. Sunrun Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Joseph Semprini filed a lawsuit against his employer, Wedbush Securities, Inc., alleging 11 personal causes of action and seven class claims for alleged wage and hour violations. Semprini and Wedbush agreed that Semprini’s personal claims would be arbitrated, while the remaining claims would proceed in court. The class was certified in 2017, and the parties litigated Semprini’s class and Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims in court over the next several years. In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana that an employer may enforce an employee’s agreement to arbitrate individual PAGA claims. Following this decision, Wedbush asked its workforce to sign arbitration agreements, and 24 class members, including the second named plaintiff, Bradley Swain, agreed to do so.The Superior Court of Orange County denied Wedbush’s motion to compel arbitration of the named plaintiffs’ individual PAGA claims and the claims of the 24 class members who signed arbitration agreements. The court found that Wedbush had waived its right to compel arbitration by entering into the 2015 stipulation.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Fourth Appellate District Division Three affirmed the lower court's decision. The court held that even if the Viking River decision or the 2022 arbitration agreements gave Wedbush a new right to move to compel certain claims to arbitration, Wedbush waited too long to make its motion, particularly in light of the looming trial date. The court found that Wedbush had waived its right to compel arbitration by waiting nine months after the Viking River decision and five to six months after select class members signed the new arbitration agreements to file its motion to compel arbitration. View "Semprini v. Wedbush Securities Inc." on Justia Law

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The case involves an appeal by SaniSure, Inc., against a trial court's decision not to compel arbitration in a dispute with its former employee, Jasmin Vazquez. Vazquez initially worked for SaniSure from July 2019, and as part of her employment, she signed an agreement to resort to arbitration for any disputes that might arise from her employment. She eventually terminated this employment in May 2021. She returned to work for SaniSure four months later without signing any new arbitration agreement or discussing the application of the previous arbitration agreement to her new employment.Vazquez's second employment with SaniSure ended in July 2022. Later, she filed a class-action complaint alleging that SaniSure had failed to provide accurate wage statements during her second tenure. She also signaled her intent to add a derivative action under the Labor Code Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA). SaniSure responded by submitting a “cure letter” claiming that its wage statements now comply with the Labor Code and requested that Vazquez submit her claims to binding arbitration, which Vazquez disputed.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Six affirmed the trial court's denial of SaniSure’s motion to compel arbitration. The court found that SaniSure failed to show that Vazquez agreed to arbitrate claims arising from her second stint of employment. The court further concluded that there was no evidence of an implied agreement to arbitrate claims arising from the second employment period, as the agreement covering Vazquez’s first employment period terminated in May 2021. View "Vazquez v. SaniSure" on Justia Law

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The case involves Gail Dee Lew-Williams, as the surviving spouse and successor in interest of Wilbur Williams, Jr., M.D., and Wilbur Williams, M.D., Inc. (collectively, the Williams plaintiffs) and Sevana Petrosian and her associates Salina Ranjbar, Vana Mehrabian, and Staforde Palmer (collectively, the Petrosian defendants). The Williams plaintiffs accused the Petrosian defendants of embezzling approximately $11.5 million from the Corporation’s bank accounts. The trial court compelled the case to arbitration, but the Williams plaintiffs failed to initiate arbitration proceedings. As a result, the trial court dismissed the Williams plaintiffs’ claims against the Petrosian defendants.The Williams plaintiffs appealed, arguing that they did not have the funds to initiate the arbitration and that the trial court erred in compelling arbitration. The Petrosian defendants argued that the claims were properly dismissed because the Williams plaintiffs had the funds to arbitrate and should not be allowed on appeal to challenge the trial court’s order compelling arbitration before first arbitrating their claims.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, concluded that once a trial court has compelled claims to contractual arbitration, the court has “very limited authority with respect to [the] pending arbitration.” If a party fails to diligently prosecute an arbitration, the appropriate remedy is for the opposing party to seek relief in the arbitration proceeding. Therefore, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction when it dismissed the Williams plaintiffs’ claims against the Petrosian defendants for failure to prosecute. The court reversed the trial court's dismissal of the case. View "Lew-Williams v. Petrosian" on Justia Law

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An online business, Interactive Life Forms, LLC, was sued by a customer, Brinan Weeks, who alleged that the company falsely advertised a product he purchased. In response, the company invoked an arbitration clause found in the terms of use on its website, claiming that these terms bound customers irrespective of whether they clicked on the link or provided any affirmative assent. The company argued that by using the website and making a purchase, Weeks had agreed to the terms of use, which included a provision mandating arbitration for any disputes.The trial court denied the motion to compel arbitration, finding that the company failed to show the parties agreed to arbitrate their dispute. The court held that the link to the terms of use was insufficient to put a reasonable user on notice of the terms of use and the arbitration agreement.On appeal, the Appellate Court of the State of California, Second Appellate District Division One, affirmed the trial court’s decision. It held that the company failed to establish that a reasonably prudent user would be on notice of the terms of use. The court rejected the company's argument that it should depart from precedent, which generally considers browsewrap provisions unenforceable, and also dismissed the company's claim that Federal Arbitration Act preempts California law adverse to browsewrap provisions. The court concluded there were no grounds to deviate from this precedent, and that the Federal Arbitration Act did not preempt California law concerning browsewrap agreements. The court emphasized that the company had the onus to put users on notice of the terms to which it wished to bind consumers. View "Weeks v. Interactive Life Forms, LLC" on Justia Law