Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
Big Sky Vacation Rentals, Inc. v. PointCentral, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying PointCentral, LLC's motion to dismiss third-party claims of Big Sky Vacation Rentals, Inc. (BSVR) pursuant to Mont. R. Civ. P. 12(b), holding that the district court erred in concluding that the PointCentral/BSVR arbitration agreement was invalid or otherwise unenforceable due to lack of mutuality or equitable unconscionability. BSVR and PointCentral entered into an agreement that included a broadly-worded arbitration agreement. After BSVR was sued for contract and tort claims BSVR asserted third-party claims against PointCentral for contribution and indemnification. Based on the arbitration agreement, PointCentral filed a motion for dismissal of BSVR's third-party claims. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the agreement lacked mutual consideration and was thus unenforceable as a matter of generally applicable contract law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in failing to dismiss BSVR's third-party claims because the arbitration was not unenforceable due to lack of mutuality or equitable unconscionability and did not contravene the letter or underlying purpose or policy of Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-703(4)-(5). View "Big Sky Vacation Rentals, Inc. v. PointCentral, LLC" on Justia Law
Bucy v. Edward Jones & Co.
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying the motion to compel arbitration filed by Edwards Jones & Company, Jeremy Kientz, and Nick Ferranto (collectively, Edwards Jones) of post-termination claims asserted against them by former Edward Jones employee Adam Bucy, holding that Bucy's claims were mandatorily arbitrable and within the scope of the arbitration agreements. Bucy, who worked for Edward Jones for approximately nineteen years primarily as a financial advisor, was terminated after an internal review. Bucy filed a complaint against Edward Jones asserting claims for statutory blacklisting, statutory defamation, and common law tortious interference with a prospective business relationship. Edward Jones moved to dismiss and compel arbitration of Bucy's claims on the basis that they were subject to arbitration under Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) and National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (NASD) regulations and two arbitration agreements between the parties. The district court denied arbitration of post-employment claims, concluding that the claims were not arbitrable within the scope of the arbitration agreements. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration agreements were valid and enforceable, that Bucy's claims were mandatorily arbitrable, and that the claims were within the scope of the arbitration agreements. View "Bucy v. Edward Jones & Co." on Justia Law
Peeler v. Rocky Mountain Log Homes Canada, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismiss the case, holding that the district court did not erroneously compel arbitration. Plaintiff entered into a construction contract that contained an arbitration agreement. Plaintiff later filed a complaint against Defendants, asserting claims for breach of contract, negligence, and other torts. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration and dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) in concluding that the arbitration agreement required arbitration of matters within its scope rather than merely authorizing it as a matter of discretion upon timely demand; (2) in failing to conclude that Defendants equitably waived the right to arbitrate; (3) in compelling arbitration without consideration of Plaintiff’s proposed declaratory judgment claim challenging the validity of the arbitration agreement; (4) in concluding that Plaintiff’s asserted non-contract claims were subject to arbitration; and (5) in failing to conclude that, as a non-party to the agreement, one defendant lacked standing to enforce the arbitration agreement. View "Peeler v. Rocky Mountain Log Homes Canada, Inc." on Justia Law
Anderson v. John Deere & Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellants’ motion to compel arbitration of claims brought by Appellee, holding that the district court did not err in denying Appellants’ motion to compel arbitration. At issue in this case was a dealership agreement containing an arbitration clause. The agreement was signed by Frontline Ag, LLC and John Deere Company. Appellee owned an interest in Frontline. The dealer agreement contained an arbitration clause requiring arbitration of disputes between Deere and Frontline, the dealer. Appellee eventually filed this action against Deere alleging, inter alia, tortious interference with contract. Deere moved to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion to compel arbitration, reasoning that Appellee never agreed to arbitrate his claims against Deere and that the dealer agreement only required arbitration of disputes between Deere and Frontline. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration clause did not incorporate Appellee’s personal damage claims within its definition of disputes subject to mandatory arbitration. View "Anderson v. John Deere & Co." on Justia Law
Lenz v. FSC Securities Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court staying proceedings and compelling Investors to submit all asserted claims against FSC Securities Corp. (FSC) and Rocky Mountain Financial Advisors, LLC and Eric Roshoven (collectively, RMF) to arbitration. On the recommendation of RMF brokers and advisors, Investors purchased securities in Invizeon Corporation through FSC. After Invizeon failed, Investors sued FSC and RMF, alleging that FSC failed adequately to supervise its registered RMF representatives and that RMF wrongfully induced Investors to invest in Invizeon on various grounds. FSC and RMF moved to stay proceedings and compel arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). After a hearing, the district court issued an order compelling Investors to submit their claims to arbitration as provided in FSC customer agreement forms. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that Investors knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently assented to the terms of the standard-form arbitration agreements and validly waived their Montana constitutional rights to full legal redress and jury trial; (2) correctly concluded that the standard-form FSC arbitration agreements were not unconscionable; and (3) correctly compelled Investors to submit their claims against FSC and RMF to arbitration. View "Lenz v. FSC Securities Corp." on Justia Law
Tedesco v. Home Savings Bancorp, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court compelling arbitration and its judgment confirming the arbitration award. A few months after beginning work for Home Savings of America (HSOA), Plaintiff signed an employment agreement containing a provision that required the parties to submit any disputes to binding arbitration. After HSOA terminated Plaintiff’s employment, Plaintiff sued HSOA, its CEO and Board chair Dirk Adams, and Home Savings Bancorp (HSBC), which owned all of HSOA’s stock, alleging breach of contract, wrongful discharge, and fraud. The district court ordered the parties to proceed to binding arbitration. The arbitrator issued an award in favor of HSBC and Adams. The district court confirmed the award. The Supreme Court affirmed both orders, holding (1) the parties had a valid agreement to arbitrate, and therefore, the district court properly referred Plaintiff’s claims to arbitration; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in confirming the arbitration award because the court had jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff’s motion to vacate the arbitration award, and the arbitrator did not manifestly disregard the law. View "Tedesco v. Home Savings Bancorp, Inc." on Justia Law
Discover Bank v. Ossello
Facing more than $40,000 in unsecured debt that she owed to Discover Bank and other banks, Susan Ossello enrolled in a debt reduction program and signed a contract with Global Client Solutions. Ossello subsequently stopped making payments on her credit card debt, and Discover Bank brought a collection action against her. Ossello filed a third-party complaint against Global, alleging that Global used deceptive and fraudulent representations to solicit her participation in an illegal debt settlement plan. Global filed a motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss the third-party complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The district court concluded that the arbitration clause in Global’s contract was unconscionable and not unenforceable and therefore denied Global’s motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in (1) reserving to itself the determination of arbitrability, and (2) declaring that the arbitration provision was unconscionable and therefore not enforceable against Ossello. View "Discover Bank v. Ossello" on Justia Law
Ensey v. Mini Mart, Inc.
After Employee failed to ask a shopper for a loyalty card per Employer's policy, Employee was fired. Employee brought a wrongful discharge claim against Employer under Montana's Wrongful Discharge From Employment Act (WDEA). Employee accepted Employer's offer to arbitrate the dispute because she said Mont. Code Ann. 39-915 would force her to pay Employer's attorney fees if she declined the offer and later lost at trial. Employee then successfully moved to amend her complaint to add destruction of evidence and declaratory judgment claims, alleging, inter alia, that section 39-2-915 was unconstitutional. The district court subsequently dismissed Employee's amended complaint, concluding that it had lost jurisdiction over Employee's claim once she accepted the offer to arbitrate. The court also ruled that 39-2-915 was constitutional. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the dismissal of Employee's amended complaint, as the court lost its ability to consider Employee's claim once she agreed to arbitration; and (2) set aside the district court's determination of Employee's constitutional claim, as the court lost its authority to act further once Employee agreed to arbitrate. View "Ensey v. Mini Mart, Inc." on Justia Law
Kluver v. PPL Mont., LLC
Plaintiffs commenced a lawsuit against several power companies alleging that the Colstrip power facility, which bordered land owned by Plaintiffs, contaminated groundwater under their property. The parties proceeded with mediation after three years of litigation. The mediation ended with the transmission of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to the parties' counsel. After some of Plaintiffs expressed reservations about accepting the settlement, the power companies filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, arguing that the MOU was a written and signed settlement agreement. After a hearing, the district court granted the motion to enforce the settlement agreement, finding that the MOU was a binding, enforceable settlement agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err by finding the MOU was an enforceable settlement agreement; (2) did not err by allowing parol evidence to change an option to purchase into a right of first refusal; and (3) erred in admitting evidence protected by the mediation confidentiality statute, but the error was harmless. View "Kluver v. PPL Mont., LLC" on Justia Law
Marsden v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mont., Inc.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana (BCBS) signed an employment agreement with Plaintiff containing a clause to compel arbitration for any disputes regarding the employment agreement. After Plaintiff's employment was terminated, Plaintiff brought an action against BCBS claiming that BCBS violated the Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act (WDEA). Plaintiff, however, could bring a WDEA claim only if she did not have a written contract of employment for a specific term. The district court compelled arbitration to allow the arbitrator to determine in the first instance whether Plaintiff had a term employment contract. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's order to compel arbitration, holding that because the instant dispute implicated the terms or provisions of the employment agreement, the district court correctly determined that an arbitrator should decide, in the first instance, whether Plaintiff was an at-will employee or whether she had a term contract. View "Marsden v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mont., Inc." on Justia Law