Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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James P. Key, Jr. appealed a circuit court order denying his motion to compel arbitration of his claims against Warren Averett, LLC, and Warren Averett Companies, LLC (collectively, "WA"). Key alleged that he was a certified public accountant who had been employed by WA for 25 years and had been a member of WA for 15 years; that he had executed a personal-services agreement ("PSA") with WA that included a noncompete clause; and that WA had sent him a letter terminating his employment. Key sought a judgment declaring "that the Non-Compete Clause and the financial penalty provision contained in the PSA is not applicable to Key and is an unlawful restraint of Key's ability to serve his clients as a professional." The Alabama Supreme Court found that whether Key's claims against WA had to be arbitrated was a threshold issue that should not have been decided by the circuit court; nor was it appropriate for the Supreme Court to settle the issue in this appeal. Accordingly, the circuit court's order was reversed, and the case was remanded for the circuit court to enter an order sending the case to arbitration for a determination of the threshold issue of arbitrability and staying proceedings in the circuit court during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings. View "Key v. Warren Averett, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The Terminix International Co., L.P., and Terminix International, Inc. (collectively, "Terminix"), and Ken Stroh, an agent and employee of Terminix, appealed court orders appointing arbitrators, which were entered in two separate actions. The first action was commenced by Dauphin Surf Club Association, Inc. ("DSC"), an incorporated condominium owners' association, and multiple members of that association who owned individual condominium units. The second action was brought by Stonegate Condominium Owners' Association, Inc. ("Stonegate"), and multiple members of that association who owned individual condominium units. In 2006 and 2007, respectively, Terminix entered into contracts with DSC and Stonegate to provide protection from termites for the properties owned by DSC and Stonegate and their members. Both of those contracts included, among other things, an arbitration clause. After disputes regarding termite damage arose between Terminix and DSC and Stonegate, the DSC and Stonegate plaintiffs each petitioned for the appointment of an arbitrator to resolve the disputes. Defendants filed motions in opposition to the petitions, asserting that, because the National Arbitration Forum ("the NAF"), which had been designated as the arbitral forum in the arbitration agreement, was no longer administering consumer arbitrations, the claims could not be arbitrated by the NAF, as the parties had expressly agreed in the arbitration agreement, and that they could not be compelled to arbitrate in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the arbitration agreement. Plaintiffs countered that the contracts containing the arbitration agreement also contained a severability clause that should have been applied; the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") governed the agreement; language in the agreement demonstrated Terminix's primary intent was to arbitrate disputes (and that the choice of the NAF as the arbitral forum was an ancillary matter); and that defendants should have been judicially estopped from arguing that the selection of the NAF as the arbitral forum was integral to the arbitration agreement because they had taken the position in prior judicial proceedings that the courts presiding over those proceedings were authorized to appoint substitute arbitrators under the FAA. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed that the designation of the NAF as the arbitral forum in the agreement was ancillary rather than an integral and essential part of the agreements, the trial court therefore correctly granted plaintiffs' petitions to compel arbitration under the FAA. View "The Terminix International Co., L.P., et al. v. Dauphin Surf Club Association, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's order entered dismissing his petition to vacate an arbitration award. The Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") requires that notice of a motion to vacate an arbitration award be served within three months of the date the arbitration award is filed or delivered. Counsel sent notice of the petition to vacate the arbitration award to Respondent late on the last day of the three-month period, but counsel did so by email. The district court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss, concluding that service was improper and untimely. On appeal, Petitioner contended that service was proper because Respondent had agreed to email service in the underlying arbitration and that the consent carried over to the judicial proceedings to vacate the award.     The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling dismissing the petition and held that email service of a notice of a petition to vacate was ineffective under 9 U.S.C. Section 12 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 5. The court reasoned that Section 12 contains no exception to the three-month limitations period. Further, under Rule 5, a party may serve papers by email only if the person being served has "consented" to service by email "in writing."  Here, Petitioner’s counsel had not asked Respondent’s counsel for consent to email service, and Respondent’s counsel had not provided consent to email service in writing, as required by Rule 5. Further, AAA Employment Arbitration Rules and Mediation Procedures 38(a)-(b) does not contemplate email service. View "Dalla-Longa v. Magnetar Capital LLC" on Justia Law

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A cryogenic storage tank, manufactured by Chart and used by PFC, a San Francisco fertility clinic, to store patients’ reproductive material, experienced a failure. A putative class action was filed in federal court against four defendants. Claims against Chart proceeded in federal court; claims against other defendants proceeded in arbitration. Claimants not involved in the federal litigation filed subsequently-coordinated suits in California state courts against the four defendants. Arbitration was compelled for about 260 claims against PFC but not the other defendants. After 18 months of negotiations and discovery, three defendants reached an agreement to resolve the claims against them in all proceedings. The trial court entered a good faith settlement determination, dismissing with prejudice “[a]ll existing cross-complaints” for equitable indemnity or contribution against the settling defendants.Chart, the non-settling defendant, unsuccessfully challenged the good faith settlement determination in a mandamus proceeding, then filed an appeal. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal, noting a split among the divisions. When one tortfeasor defendant intends to settle a case before it is resolved against all defendants, the tortfeasor may petition the court for a determination that the settlement was made in good faith. (Code Civ. Proc. 877.6.) so that the other defendants are barred from obtaining contribution or indemnification from the settling tortfeasor based on the parties’ comparative negligence or fault. The court’s good faith determination is reviewable only by a timely petition for writ of mandate. View "Pacific Fertility Cases" on Justia Law

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Dorsa joined Miraca, which offers pathology services for healthcare providers. His employment agreement contained a binding arbitration clause. Dorsa claims that, during his employment, he observed Miraca giving monetary donations and free services to healthcare providers to induce pathology referrals, in violation of the AntiKickback Statute, the Stark Law, and the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729(a)(1). Dorsa lodged internal complaints. Dorsa claims that Miraca fabricated a sexual harassment complaint against him. Dorsa filed a qui tam action against Miraca in September 2013. Days later, Miraca fired Dorsa, citing workplace harassment. Dorsa added an FCA retaliation claim.The government investigated the FCA claims and, in 2018, intervened for purposes of settlement, under which Miraca agreed to pay $63.5 million to resolve FCA claims. Miraca moved to dismiss the remaining retaliation claim, citing the arbitration clause, Dorsa argued that the clause did not apply because his claim was independent from the employment agreement. Miraca then asserted that the court did not have the authority to decide a threshold question of arbitrability. The district court ruled in favor of Dorsa. Miraca later moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial of that motion. Miraca forfeited and waived its arguments about the district court’s authority to decide threshold questions of arbitrability and its ruling on the merits. Filing the motion to dismiss was inconsistent with Miraca’s later attempts to rely on the arbitration agreement. View "Dorsa v. Miraca Life Sciences, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Nicole Leshane, Steve Garner, Justin Prasad, Isaac Saldana, and Maurice West sued defendants Tracy VW, Inc. and RJ Gill Ventures, Inc. alleging several Labor Code violations. Plaintiffs brought suit on behalf of themselves as defendants’ former employees, on behalf of others similarly situated, and on behalf of the state pursuant to the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. After defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration, plaintiffs filed a first amended complaint alleging violations of the Labor Code solely as representatives of the state under the Private Attorneys General Act. Defendants continued to seek arbitration of plaintiffs’ individual claims and dismissal of their class-wide claims pursuant to the arbitration agreements each plaintiff signed. The trial court denied defendants’ petition to compel arbitration finding plaintiffs’ claim under the Private Attorneys General Act was not subject to arbitration citing Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348 (2014). Defendants appealed the trial court’s order. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Leshane v. Tracy VW, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Cintas “defined contribution” retirement plan has a “menu” of investment options in which each participant can invest. Each Plan participant maintains an individual account, the value of which is based on the amount contributed, market performance, and associated fees. Under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), 29 U.S.C. 1102(a)(1), the Plan’s fiduciaries have the duty of loyalty—managing the plan for the best interests of its participants and beneficiaries—and a duty of prudence— managing the plan with the care and skill of a prudent person acting under like circumstances. Plaintiffs, two Plan participants, brought a putative class action, contending that Cintas breached both duties. Plaintiffs had entered into multiple employment agreements with Cintas; all contained similar arbitration provisions and a provision preventing class actions.The district court declined to compel arbitration, reasoning that the action was brought on behalf of the Plan, so that it was irrelevant that the two Plaintiffs had consented to arbitration through their employment agreements–the Plan itself did not consent. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The weight of authority and the nature of ERISA section 502(a)(2) claims suggest that these claims belong to the Plan, not to individual plaintiffs. The actions of Cintas and the other defendants do not support a conclusion that the plan has consented to arbitration. View "Hawkins v. Cintas Corp." on Justia Law

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This case arises from a dispute regarding a joint financial venture between Noble Capital Fund Management, L.L.C. (“Noble”) and US Capital Global Investment Management, L.L.C. (“US Capital”). Noble created two separate funds, collectively the “Feeder Funds."Noble and the Feeder Funds initiated a JAMS arbitration against US Capital, alleging various claims including the breach of contractual and fiduciary duties. US Capital was unable to pay the arbitration fees, and the JAMS panel terminated the arbitration.On November 24, 2020, Noble and the Feeder Funds sued US Capital in Texas state court for various claims including fraud and fraudulent inducement. US Capital appeals the denial of its motion to compel arbitration and stay judicial proceedings and the denial of its motion to transfer.The court explained the Federal Arbitration Act requires that, where a suit is referable to arbitration, judicial proceedings be stayed until arbitration "has been had." Here, there is no arbitration to return this case to and parties may not avoid resolution of live claims by compelling a new arbitration proceeding after the first proceeding failed. Further, the court found no pendent jurisdiction over the denial of the motion to transfer. The court affirmed the district court’s ruling and dismissed the appeal of the district court’s denial of the motion to transfer. View "Noble Capital Fund v. US Capital Global" on Justia Law

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Badgerow initiated an arbitration proceeding, alleging that her employment was unlawfully terminated. After arbitrators dismissed Badgerow’s claims, she filed suit in Louisiana state court to vacate the arbitral award. Walters removed the case and applied to confirm the award. Badgerow then moved to remand the case to state court, arguing that the federal court lacked jurisdiction to resolve the parties’ requests to vacate or confirm the award under Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) Sections 10 and 9. Normally, a court has federal-question jurisdiction whenever federal law authorizes an action but the FAA does not itself support federal jurisdiction. A federal court must find an independent basis for jurisdiction to resolve an arbitral dispute. In this case, neither application revealed a jurisdictional basis on its face. The district court applied the “look-through” approach, finding jurisdiction in the federal-law claims contained in Badgerow’s underlying employment action. The Fifth Circuit affirmed.The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The “look-through” approach to determining federal jurisdiction does not apply to requests to confirm or vacate arbitral awards under Sections 9 and 10 of the FAA. The Court distinguished precedent that interpreted other FAA sections. Sections 9 and 10 lack specific statutory language that instructs a federal court to “look through” the petition to the “underlying substantive controversy.” When Congress includes particular language in one section of a statute but omits it in another section of the same Act, the choice is considered deliberate. View "Badgerow v. Walters" on Justia Law

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Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (Blizzard) appealed an order denying its motion to compel arbitration. B.D., a minor, played Blizzard’s online videogame “Overwatch,” and used “real money” to make in-game purchases of “Loot Boxes” - items that offer “randomized chances . . . to obtain desirable or helpful ‘loot’ in the game.” B.D. and his father (together, Plaintiffs) sued Blizzard, alleging the sale of loot boxes with randomized values constituted unlawful gambling, and, thus, violated the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Plaintiffs sought only prospective injunctive relief, plus attorney fees and costs. Blizzard moved to compel arbitration based on the dispute resolution policy incorporated into various iterations of the online license agreement that Blizzard presented to users when they signed up for, downloaded, and used Blizzard’s service. The trial court denied the motion, finding a “reasonably prudent user would not have inquiry notice of the agreement” to arbitrate because “there was no conspicuous notice of an arbitration” provision in any of the license agreements. The Court of Appeal disagreed: the operative version of Blizzard’s license agreement was presented to users in an online pop-up window that contained the entire agreement within a scrollable text box. View "B.D. v. Blizzard Entertainment" on Justia Law