Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Montana Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court vacating an interim award and final award issued by the arbitrator and requiring the parties to resubmit their dispute to arbitration before a new arbitrator, holding that the district court erred.M.K. Weeden Construction, Inc. and Simbeck and Associates, Inc. entered into a subcontract for Simbell to install a geosynthetic lining system on the slopes of a new embankment on a tailings storage facility at a mine near Nye, Montana. After Weeden terminated the subcontract by invoking the subcontract's default provision Simbeck filed a demand for arbitration. The arbitrator first issued an interim award awarding Simbeck damages and then a final award awarding Simbeck attorney fees. The district court granted Weeden's motion to vacate the award and ordered the parties again to submit the dispute to arbitration before a new arbitrator, ruling that the arbitrator exceeded his authority by issuing the interim award. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the interim award was a proper "reasoned award" and the district court abused its discretion by vacating it; and (2) Simbeck was entitled to attorney fees incurred in defense of the arbitration award. View "M.K. Weeden Construction, Inc. v. Simbeck & Assocs., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting a motion to approve a settlement agreement reached in mediation involving siblings Lily Smith and Sam, Dan, and Vernon Lindemulder, holding that Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their claims of error.The agreement at issue resolved claims involving the Alice M. Lindemulder Trust, established by the parties' mother, which held more than 2,000 acres of land in Stillwater County. Sam appealed the district court's decision to approve the settlement agreement, arguing that the agreement was unenforceable because he lacked the capacity to enter it and had been subjected to undue influence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that Sam validly consented to the agreement; and (2) did not err in holding that the agreement was valid and enforceable. View "Smith v. Lindemulder" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the district court in this case, holding that the district court applied an overly narrow legal standard in denying a motion to vacate or modify an arbitration award but did not err in refusing to grant attorney fees.Sutey Oil Company brought a complaint against Monroe's High County Travel Plaza and Marvin Monroe (collectively, Monroe), and the parties stipulated to arbitration. After a hearing, the arbitrator entered judgment for Sutey and awarded $220,750. Monroe moved to either modify or vacate the arbitration award. The district court denied the motion and refused to grant Sutey's request for attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) remand was required for clarification of the amount of the award pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 25-5-217; and (2) the district court did not err in denying Sutey's motion for an award of attorney fees. View "Sutey Oil Co. v. Monroe's High Country Travel Plaza, LLC" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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