Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Bachman Sunny Hill Fruit Farms v. Producers Agriculture Insurance Co.
Bachman Farms grows apples in Ohio and protected its 2017 crop with federally reinsured crop insurance from Producers Agriculture. When farmers and private insurers enter a federally reinsured crop insurance contract, they agree to common terms set by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC), including a requirement that the parties arbitrate coverage disputes. In those proceedings, the arbitrator must defer to agency interpretations of the common policy. Failure to do so results in the nullification of the arbitration award. Bachman lost at its arbitration with Producers Agriculture and alleged that the arbitrator engaged in impermissible policy interpretation. Bachman petitioned to nullify the arbitration award.The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The petition to nullify did not comply with the substance or the three-month time limit of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 12. When a dispute concerning federally reinsured crop insurance involves a policy or procedure interpretation, the parties “must obtain an interpretation from FCIC.” Bachman did not seek an interpretation from FCIC but went directly to federal court to seek nullification under the common policy and its accompanying regulations—an administrative remedy—rather than vacatur under the FAA. View "Bachman Sunny Hill Fruit Farms v. Producers Agriculture Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Villareal v. LAD-T, LLC
LAD-T, LLC, dba Toyota of Downtown Los Angeles (LAD-T), and its parent company Lithia Motors Inc. (Lithia; collectively, Defendants) appeal from an order denying their motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s claims brought under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Defendants contend the trial court erred in finding Business and Professions Code section 17918 barred them from enforcing an arbitration agreement made in the name of an unregistered fictitious business, DT Los Angeles Toyota. The Second Appellate District vacated the order denying Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration remanded for the trial court to address whether Defendants have waived their right to compel arbitration. The court ruled that if the trial court finds waiver, it should again deny the motion to compel arbitration; if it finds no waiver, it should grant the motion. The court explained that it agrees with Plaintiff that Defendants failed to act diligently in filing their fictitious business name statement. Accordingly, in the interests of justice the court vacated the court’s order denying the motion to compel arbitration and direct the court to again consider the motion to compel arbitration limited to the narrow issue of whether Defendants have waived their right to compel arbitration by their delay in filing the fictitious business name statement. View "Villareal v. LAD-T, LLC" on Justia Law
Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc.
Cisco Systems, Inc. hired “John Doe” in September 2015 to work as an engineer. Doe was required to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of his employment. Under the agreement, Cisco and Doe had to arbitrate “all disputes or claims arising from or relating to” Doe’s employment, including claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. Several years after signing the agreement, Doe filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging Cisco discriminated against him because of ancestry or race. He reported that two supervisors denied him opportunities and disparaged him because, under the traditional caste system of India, he was from the lowest caste and they are from the highest. Doe also accused Cisco of retaliating when he complained about being treated unfavorably because of his caste. The Department notified Cisco of Doe’s complaint, investigated it, and decided it had merit. Attempts at informal resolution were unsuccessful. The Department then filed a lawsuit against Cisco and the two supervisors. The Department alleged five causes of action alleging multiple violations of FEHA, and sought a permanent injunction preventing Cisco from committing further violations, and mandatory injunctive relief requiring Cisco to institute policies to prevent employment discrimination. The complaint also requested an order that Cisco compensate Doe for past and future economic losses. Cisco moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the agreement Doe signed. The trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Cisco argued the Department was bound by the terms of Doe’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding the Department acts independently when it exercises the power to sue for FEHA violations. “As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered.” View "Dept. of Fair Employment and Housing v. Cisco Systems, Inc." on Justia Law
California v. Maplebear Inc.
The San Diego City Attorney brought an enforcement action under the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. (UCL), on behalf of the State of California against Maplebear Inc. DBA Instacart (Instacart). In their complaint, the State alleged Instacart unlawfully misclassified its employees as independent contractors in order to deny workers employee protections, harming its alleged employees and the public at large through a loss of significant payroll tax revenue, and giving Instacart an unfair advantage against its competitors. In response to the complaint, Instacart brought a motion to compel arbitration of a portion of the City’s action based on its agreements with the individuals it hires ("Shoppers"). The trial court denied the motion, concluding Instacart failed to meet its burden to show a valid agreement to arbitrate between it and the State. Instacart challenged the trial court’s order, arguing that even though the State was not a party to its Shopper agreements, they were bound by its arbitration provision to the extent they seek injunctive relief and restitution because these remedies were “primarily for the benefit of” the Shoppers. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and affirmed the trial court’s order. View "California v. Maplebear Inc." on Justia Law
Minn. Department of Corrections v. Knutson
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals holding that decisions made under Minn. Stat. 43A.33 are quasi-judicial administrative decisions subject to certiorari review by the court but reversed its holding that the Bureau of Mediation Services was a proper party to the appeal, holding that the Bureau was not a proper party to the certiorari appeal.When the Minnesota Department of Corrections sought certiorari review of an arbitrator's decision granting Appellant's appeal from the discharge of his employment at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, Appellant challenged the court of appeals' jurisdiction to hear the appeal, arguing that review must be undertaken by the district court. The court of appeals upheld the arbitrator's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Appellant and the Department were not parties to an arbitration agreement that invoked the judicial review procedures of the Uniform Arbitration Act; (2) the decision of an arbitrator appointed according to section 43A.33 is a quasi-judicial determination of an inferior tribunal reviewable via writ of certiorari at the court of appeals; and (3) the Bureau was not a proper party to this appeal because it had no legal or equitable interest in the outcome. View "Minn. Department of Corrections v. Knutson" on Justia Law
Hinkle v. Phillips 66 Company
Appellant is a pipeline-inspection company that hires inspectors and sends them to work for its clients. When Plaintiff was hired, Appellant had him sign an Employment Agreement that contained an arbitration clause. That arbitration provision explained that Plaintiff and Appellant agree to arbitrate all claims that have arisen or will arise out of Plaintiff’s employment. Appellant staffed Plaintiff on a project with Defendant, a diversified energy company that stores and transports natural gas and crude oil. Alleging that the Fair Labor Standards Act entitled him to overtime pay, Plaintiff filed a collective action against Defendant; he brought no claims against Appellant. Appellant moved to intervene. The magistrate judge granted that motion, explaining that Appellant met the criteria for both permissive intervention and intervention as of right. Appellant claimed that it was an “aggrieved party” under Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and thus could compel arbitration. The magistrate judge rejected all the motions. The district court affirmed. The Fifth Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction Appellant’s appeal. The court held that Appellant is not an aggrieved party under Section 4 of the FAA and cannot compel arbitration. The court explained it is only where the arbitration may not proceed under the provisions of the contract without a court order that the other party is really aggrieved. Here, Plaintiff only promised to arbitrate claims brought against Appellant. Claiming that Plaintiff did not arbitrate its claims with Defendant is therefore not an allegation that he violated his agreement with Appellant. View "Hinkle v. Phillips 66 Company" on Justia Law
California v. Maplebear Inc.
The San Diego City Attorney brought an enforcement action under the California Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code sections 17200, et seq. (UCL), on behalf of the People of California against Maplebear Inc. DBA Instacart (Instacart). In their complaint, the State alleged Instacart unlawfully misclassified its employees as independent contractors in order to deny workers employee protections, harming its alleged employees and the public at large through a loss of significant payroll tax revenue, and giving Instacart an unfair advantage against its competitors. In response to the complaint, Instacart brought a motion to compel arbitration of a portion of the City’s action based on its agreements with the individuals it hired (called "Shoppers"). The trial court denied the motion, concluding Instacart failed to meet its burden to show a valid agreement to arbitrate between it and the State. Instacart appealed, arguing that even though the State was not a party to its Shopper agreements, it was bound by its arbitration provision to the extent the State sought injunctive relief and restitution because these remedies were “primarily for the benefit of” the Shoppers. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and affirmed the trial court’s order. View "California v. Maplebear Inc." on Justia Law
Sarchi v. Uber Technologies, Inc.
The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court denying the motion to compel arbitration brought by Uber Technologies, Inc. and Rasier, LLC (collectively, Uber) in this action brought by Patricia Sarchi, a user of Uber's ride-sharing service, and the Maine Human Rights Commission, holding that the superior court did not err.Plaintiffs brought this action against Uber for violating the Maine Human Rights Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 5, 4592(8), 4633(2), after Sarchi, who was blind, was refused a ride because of her guide dog. Uber moved to compel Sarchi to arbitrate and to dismiss or stay the action pending arbitration. The motion court denied the motion to compel, concluding that Sarchi did not become bound by the terms and conditions of Uber's user agreement. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, Sarchi was not bound by the terms. View "Sarchi v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Bird v. Oregon Commission for the Blind
Bird and other blind vendors filed a formal complaint with Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB) seeking arbitration, prospective relief, and attorney’s fees as a consequence of OCB’s alleged mishandling of vending contracts and representation of blind vendors’ interests. The arbitration panel denied relief. The district court held that sovereign immunity did not apply to an arbitration panel’s decision under the Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA), which creates a cooperative federal-state program that gives preference to blind applicants for vending licenses at federal facilities, 20 U.S.C. 107, and that the Eleventh Amendment did not protect OCB from liability for damages. The Ninth Circuit reversed. Neither the RSA nor the parties’ operating agreements unequivocally waived a state’s sovereign immunity from liability for monetary damages, attorney’s fees, or costs. Citing the Supreme Court’s 2011 "Sossamon" decision, the court rejected a “constructive waiver” argument, reasoning that a waiver of sovereign immunity must be explicit. An agreement to arbitrate all disputes simply did not unequivocally waive sovereign immunity from liability for monetary damages. The operating agreements incorporated the text of the RSA and contained no express waiver of immunity from money damages. Because no provision of the RSA or the operating agreements provided for attorney’s fees, Bird was not entitled to attorney’s fees. View "Bird v. Oregon Commission for the Blind" on Justia Law
Borough of Carteret v. Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, Local 67
In 2011, the Borough of Carteret and the Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, Local 67 (FMBA) executed a collectively negotiated agreement (CNA) governing the terms and conditions of employment for the Borough’s firefighters. As of 2013, the Borough employed four captains and generally staffed each shift with one captain, who was charged with managing subordinate firefighters also on duty. Under the CNA, if no captains were scheduled to work a particular shift, the senior firefighter on duty would assume the captain’s responsibilities and be compensated at the captain’s rate of pay. Almost two years after the CNA went into effect, the Borough created a new position -- fire lieutenant -- falling between captain and firefighter in the chain of command. After the creation of the lieutenant position, if no captains were scheduled for a given shift, the lieutenant on duty would assume the captain’s responsibilities. In those instances, however, the Borough paid lieutenants their regular salary, not the higher rate an acting captain would have been paid. In 2017, the FMBA filed a grievance alleging that the Borough’s failure to pay lieutenants at the rate of an acting captain when a lieutenant assumed a captain’s responsibilities violated the terms of the CNA. An arbitrator sided with the FMBA. The Chancery Division upheld the award, but the Appellate Division reversed, finding that the difference between the Civil Service Commission’s job descriptions for firefighters and fire lieutenants created uncertainty as to Section 5 of the CNA's application to lieutenants. The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed, finding the arbitrator’s award was supported by a reasonably debatable interpretation of the disputed provision, and therefore, the award should have been upheld on appeal. View "Borough of Carteret v. Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association, Local 67" on Justia Law