Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc.
After plaintiff filed this class-action complaint against defendants, defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. The trial court granted the motion. Plaintiff appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Oregon Supreme Court granted review of the matter, finding that plaintiff and defendants executed a contract—the “Driver Services Agreement” (DSA)—for plaintiff to provide delivery services for defendants. The DSA stated that drivers are independent contractors. The DSA includes a section on dispute resolution. That section provides that any party “may propose mediation as appropriate” as a means for resolving a dispute arising out of or relating to the DSA. It then provided that, if the parties did not pursue mediation or mediation failed, “any dispute, claim or controversy” arising out of or relating to the DSA—including disputes about “the existence, scope, or validity” of the DSA itself—would be resolved through binding arbitration conducted by a panel of three arbitrators. The DSA also included a savings clause, which allowed for the severance of any invalid or unenforceable term or provision of the DSA. On review, plaintiff argued, inter alia, that the arbitration agreement within the DSA was unconscionable because it required him to arbitrate his wage and hour claims but prohibited the arbitrators from granting him relief on those claims. Plaintiff based his argument on a provision of the arbitration agreement that stated that the arbitrators could not “alter, amend or modify” the terms and conditions of the DSA. The Court of Appeals agreed with defendant’s reading of the DSA, as did the Supreme Court: read in the context of the DSA as a whole, the provision that the arbitrators may not “alter, amend or modify” the terms and conditions of the DSA “is not plausibly read as a restriction on their authority to determine what terms are enforceable or what law is controlling.” View "Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc." on Justia Law
Mathis v. St. Helens Auto Center, Inc.
The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review centered on whether ORS 652.200(2) and ORCP 54 E(3) could be construed in a way that “will give effect” to both, in the words of the Oregon Legislature’s longstanding requirement for construing statutes. Plaintiff was employed by defendant for several years. Defendant terminated plaintiff’s employment, and, several months later, plaintiff filed the underlying action alleging defendant failed to pay wages that were due at termination. The case was assigned to mandatory court-annexed arbitration, and defendant made an offer of judgment under ORCP 54 E, which plaintiff rejected. The arbitrator ultimately found that defendant had failed to timely pay some of the wages that plaintiff claimed and that the failure was willful, entitling plaintiff to a statutory penalty. In addition, the arbitrator awarded plaintiff an attorney fee under ORS 652.200(2) and costs, but he applied ORCP 54 E(3) to limit those awards to fees and costs that plaintiff had incurred before defendant’s offer of judgment, because that offer of judgment exceeded the amount that plaintiff had ultimately recovered on his claims. Plaintiff filed exceptions to the arbitrator’s application of ORCP 54 E(3) to limit the award of fees and costs, but the award was affirmed by operation of law when the court failed to enter a decision within 20 days. In a divided en banc opinion, the Court of Appeals held that ORCP 54 E(3) could be applied to wage claims without negating the effect of ORS 652.200(2) and thus, both could be given effect. The Supreme Court concurred with the appellate dissent, finding that and need to limit the attorney fees of an employee who unreasonably rejects a good faith offer or tender could be addressed on a case-by-case basis under ORS 20.075(2), but the “reasonable” attorney fee required by ORS 652.200(2) could not be categorically limited through ORCP 54 E(3). Judgment was reversed and the matter returned to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Mathis v. St. Helens Auto Center, Inc." on Justia Law
Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc.
Plaintiff Jeff Gist worked as a driver for defendant Driver Resources, LLC. The other two defendants were related companies. In November 2013, plaintiff filed a class-action complaint against defendants, on behalf of himself and other similarly situated drivers. At issue was defendants’ compliance with Oregon’s wage and hour laws. In January 2014, defendants filed a petition to compel arbitration, on the basis of an agreement that plaintiff had signed with one defendant. Plaintiff responded to the petition by arguing that the agreement was unconscionable, and therefore that arbitration should not be compelled. The trial court granted defendants’ petition, requiring plaintiff to proceed to arbitration. Plaintiff made several attempts to obtain appellate review of the trial court’s order compelling arbitration. This case required the Oregon Supreme Court to determine whether the Court of Appeals correctly dismissed plaintiff’s appeal of a judgment dismissing his complaint with prejudice on the grounds that the appeal was barred by the Supreme Court’s decision in Steenson v. Robinson, 385 P2d 738 (1963). That decision set out the common-law rule that a party may not appeal from a voluntarily-requested judgment. The Court concluded the judgment was appealable and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals. View "Gist v. Zoan Management, Inc." on Justia Law