Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports 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

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The lawsuit underlying this appeal involves a "spin-off" of the Fast & Furious franchise, a project ultimately released as Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (the film), on which Moritz allegedly worked as a producer pursuant to an oral agreement with Universal. After Moritz filed suit for breach of a binding oral agreement regarding Moritz's work on the film, appellants moved to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements in the written producer contracts regarding Moritz's work for Universal on the Fast & Furious franchise.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of appellants' motion to arbitrate, holding that the arbitration agreements from the Fast & Furious movies did not apply to the Hobbs & Shaw spin-off dispute. The court stated that not only is it not clear and unmistakable here that the parties agreed to delegate arbitrability questions concerning Hobbs & Shaw to an arbitrator, no reasonable person in their position would have understood the arbitration provisions in the Fast & Furious contracts to require arbitration of any future claim of whatever nature or type, no matter how unrelated to the agreements nor how distant in the future the claim arose. The court explained that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) requires no enforcement of an arbitration provision with respect to disputes unrelated to the contract in which the provision appears. In this case, appellants' argument that an arbitration provision creates a perpetual obligation to arbitrate any conceivable claim that Moritz might ever have against them is plainly inconsistent with the FAA's explicit relatedness requirement. View "Moritz v. Universal City Studios LLC" on Justia Law

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Since 1986, the GSW NBA basketball team has played their home games at the Authority's Oakland arena. A 1996 License Agreement gave GSW certain obligations to pay the debt incurred in renovating the arena if GSW “terminates” the agreement. In 2012, GSW announced its intention to construct a new arena in San Francisco. GSW did not exercise the renewal option in the Agreement, and, on June 30, 2017, its initial term expired. GSW initiated arbitration proceedings, seeking a declaration that it was no longer obliged to make debt payments if it allowed the License Agreement to expire rather than terminating it.The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Authority and against GSW, awarding the Authority attorney fees. The court of appeal affirmed. Based on extrinsic evidence, the arbitrator found the parties intended to adhere to the terms of a pre-agreement Memorandum of Understanding, which required the team to continue making debt payments after the initial term. The 1996 License Agreement is reasonably susceptible to the parties’ competing interpretations, so parol evidence was admissible to prove what the parties intended. Even assuming that the arbitrator addressed a question of law when she interpreted the Agreement, the parties intended to include a termination of the agreement upon GSW’s failure to exercise the first two options to renew. View "Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority v. Golden State Warriors, LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendant California Community College Athletic Association (Athletic Association) administered intercollegiate athletics for the California community college system. The parties agreed that, as a condition of participating in the intercollegiate football league, plaintiff Bakersfield College (the College) agreed to be bound by the Athletic Association’s bylaws and constitution, including a provision requiring the College to resolve any sanctions and penalty disputes by binding arbitration. Instead of proceeding through binding arbitration to challenge the sanctions and penalty decisions issued by the Athletic Association and codefendant the Southern California Football Association (the Football Association) against the College, the College and coplaintiffs Jeffrey Chudy and the Kern Community College District elected to file civil litigation. Plaintiffs argued they were excused from pursuing binding arbitration because the arbitration provision was unconscionable. The trial court said the “issue [wa]s close,” but ultimately, after severing the one-sided attorney fees subsections, found the arbitration provision was not unconscionable. The trial court, therefore, found plaintiffs’ litigation was barred by the failure to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that this was a close case but concluded the arbitration provision was unconscionable. Accordingly, it reversed. View "Bakersfield College v. Cal. Community College Athletic Assn." on Justia Law

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Douglas Schoninger was interested in launching a professional rugby league in the United States. Toward that end, he formed PRO Rugby and approached the United States of America Rugby Football Union (“USAR”), the national governing body for rugby in the United States. PRO Rugby and USAR entered into the Sanction Agreement, which authorized PRO Rugby to establish a professional rugby league in the United States. At issue before the Colorado Supreme Court in this appeal was whether a nonsignatory to an arbitration agreement could be required to arbitrate under that agreement by virtue of the fact that it was a purported agent of a signatory to the agreement. Specifically, the Court was asked to decide whether the district court erred when it entered an order requiring petitioner Rugby International Marketing (“RIM”), a nonsignatory to a Professional Rugby Sanction Agreement (the “Sanction Agreement”), to arbitrate pursuant to an arbitration provision in that Agreement that covered the parties and their agents. The court found that because RIM was an agent for USAR, a signatory of the Sanction Agreement, RIM fell “squarely within the broad language of the arbitration provision.” The Supreme Court found that the weight of authority nationally established that, subject to a number of recognized exceptions, only parties to an agreement containing an arbitration provision could compel or be subject to arbitration. Here, because RIM was not a party to the Sanction Agreement and because respondents PRO Rugby and Schoninger had not established any of the recognized exceptions applied, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in determining that RIM was subject to arbitration under the Sanction Agreement. View "In re N.A. Rugby Union v. U.S. Rugby Football Union" on Justia Law

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San Francisco Baseball Associates (the Giants) unsuccessfully moved to compel arbitration of the wage and hour claims of Melendez, a security guard employed at AT&T Park. Melendez argued that he and other security guards were employed “intermittingly” for specific assignments and were discharged “at the end of a homestand, at the end of a baseball season, at the end of an inter-season event like a fan fest, college football game, a concert, a series of shows, or other events,” and, under Labor Code section 201, were entitled to but did not receive immediate payment of their final wages upon each “discharge.” The Giants argued that immediate payment was not required because, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Giants and the union, Melendez and all such security guards are not intermittent employees but are “year-round employees who remain employed with the Giants until they resign or are terminated pursuant to the CBA.” The Giants argued that the action is preempted by section 301 of the federal Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185(a). The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the dispute is not within the scope of the CBA's arbitration provision but that arbitration is required by section 301. View "Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates" on Justia Law

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The NFLPA filed a complaint on behalf of Ezekiel Elliott, a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, seeking a preliminary injunction preventing enforcement of a forthcoming six game suspension by the NFL and NFL Management Council. The Commissioner of the NFL determined that domestic violence allegations were substantiated and that Elliott should be suspended for six games. An arbitrator issued a decision upholding the suspension on the same day the district court held a preliminary injunction hearing. The district court then enjoined the NFL from enforcing the suspension. The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's preliminary injunction, holding that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it issued the preliminary injunction. In this case, when the NFLPA filed the complaint, the arbitrator had not yet issued his decision, and jurisdiction depends on the facts as they exist when the complaint was filed. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the case. View "NFLPA v. NFL" on Justia Law

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League Commissioner Roger Goodell, during the 2014 football season, suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson indefinitely and fined Peterson a sum equivalent to six games' pay. Peterson’s suspension stemmed from his plea of nolo contendere in November 2014 to a charge of misdemeanor reckless assault on one of his children. After Peterson appealed his discipline to an arbitrator, the arbitrator affirmed the suspension and fine. The district court then granted Peterson's petition to vacate the arbitration decision and the League appealed. The Commissioner subsequently reinstated Peterson. At issue in this appeal is whether the League may collect the fine imposed by the Commissioner and upheld by the arbitrator. The court concluded that the parties bargained to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator, and the arbitrator acted within his authority. The court rejected the Association's remaining contentions that the arbitrator was "evidently partial' and that the arbitration was “fundamentally unfair.” Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s judgment vacating the arbitration decision and the court remanded with directions to dismiss the petition. View "NFL Players Ass'n v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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The NFL suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for four games because of his involvement in a scheme to deflate footballs during the 2015 AFC Championship Game. After Brady requested arbitration, League Commissioner Roger Goodell, who served as arbitrator, entered an award confirming the discipline. The district court vacated the award based on the reasoning that Brady lacked notice that his conduct was prohibited and punishable by suspension, and that the manner in which the proceedings were conducted deprived him of fundamental fairness. The court concluded that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion to resolve an intramural controversy between the League and a player. In their collective bargaining agreement, the players and the League mutually decided many years ago that the Commissioner should investigate possible rule violations, should impose appropriate sanctions, and may preside at arbitration challenging his discipline. In this case, the court concluded that Brady received adequate notice that deflation of footballs could lead to suspension, the Commissioner's decision to exclude testimony from NFL General Counsel fits within his broad discretion to admit or exclude evidence and raises no questions of fundamental fairness, and there is no fundamental unfairness in the Commissioner's denial of notes and memoranda generated by the investigative team where the collective bargaining agreement does not require the exchange of such notes. The court concluded that the Association's remaining claims are without merit. Accordingly, the court reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded. View "NFL Mgmt. Council v. NFL Players Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Singer-songwriters John Whitehead and Gene McFadden were “an integral part of the 1970s Philadelphia music scene. In 2002, Pullman approached them about purchasing their song catalogue. The parties signed a contract but never finalized the sale. Pullman claims he discovered tax liens while conducting due diligence and that the matter was never resolved. Whitehead and McFadden passed away in 2004 and 2006, respectively. Pullman became embroiled in disputes with their estates over ownership of the song catalogue. The parties eventually agreed to arbitration. Pullman, unhappy with the ruling, unsuccessfully moved to vacate the arbitration award on the ground that the panel had committed legal errors that made it impossible for him to present a winning case by applying the Dead Man’s Statute, which disqualifies parties interested in litigation from testifying about personal transactions or communications with deceased or mentally ill persons.” The Third Circuit affirmed, stating that the arbitrators did not misapply the law, but that legal error alone is not a sufficient basis to vacate the results of an arbitration in any case. View "Whitehead v. Pullman Group LLC" on Justia Law