Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Products Liability
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After encountering problems with their used 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan, plaintiffs Dina C. and Pastor O. Felisilda brought an action against Elk Grove Auto Group, Inc., doing business as Elk Grove Dodge Chrysler Jeep (Elk Grove Dodge) and the manufacturer, FCA US LLC (FCA) for violation of the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. Relying on the retail installment sales contract signed by the Felisildas, Elk Grove Dodge moved to compel arbitration. FCA filed a notice of nonopposition to the motion to compel. The trial court ordered the Felisildas to arbitrate their claim against both Elk Grove Dodge and FCA. In response, the Felisildas dismissed Elk Grove Dodge. The matter was submitted to arbitration, and the arbitrator found in favor of FCA. The trial court confirmed the arbitrator’s decision. The Felisildas appealed, contending: (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to compel them to arbitrate their claim against FCA for lack of notice that the motion to compel included FCA; and (2) the trial court lacked discretion to order the Felisildas to arbitrate their claim against FCA because FCA was a nonsignatory to the sales contract. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the Felisildas forfeited their claim regarding lack of notice by arguing against FCA’s participation in arbitration. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court correctly determined the Felisildas’ claim against FCA was encompassed by the arbitration provision in the sales contract. View "Felisilda v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2015, State Farm filed suit against Watts, alleging subrogated product liability claims against Watts arising from a loss that occurred in November 2012. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Watt's motion to compel arbitration, finding no basis for any vested right to arbitration under the circumstances of this case, where the parties have agreed to be bound by contractual terms and rules determined by a third party. In this case, the parties signed the AF arbitration agreement some years before 2012. In 2015, the AF arbitration agreement excluded product liability claims from the kinds of claims subject to compulsory arbitration under the agreement. View "State Farm General Insurance Co. v. Watts Regulator Co." on Justia Law

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Adrienne Scott purchased from Jack Ingram Motors, Inc. ("Jack Ingram"), a new 2015 Nissan Juke automobile, which had been manufactured by Nissan. Scott took the vehicle to Jack Ingram after smelling fuel in the interior of the vehicle. Jack Ingram did not detect the smell; it inspected the fuel system of the vehicle, and found no leaks in the fuel system. Two days later, while Scott was driving the vehicle, it spontaneously caught fire. Scott sued Jack Ingram and Nissan, raising a number of claims stemming from the fire. Jack Ingram moved to compel arbitration of the claims filed against it based on the arbitration agreement Scott had signed in connection with the sale of the vehicle. Scott filed a response indicating that, although she was willing to arbitrate her breach-of-warranty and negligence claims against Jack Ingram, she objected to litigating part of the case, i.e., her claims against Nissan. Scott She indicated in her response that she was willing to arbitrate the case or to litigate the case, but she objected to having to do both. The trial court entered an order holding that, "in the interest of judicial economy," the entire matter should be arbitrated. Nissan filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court denied. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion by compelling Nissan to arbitrate the claims asserted against it by Scott. The trial court's order was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Nissan North America, Inc. v. Scott" on Justia Law

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Cavalier Manufacturing, Inc. appealed a circuit court order that denied its motion to alter, amend, or vacate an arbitration award entered in favor of Janie Gant. Gant purchased a mobile home manufactured by Cavalier from Demopolis Home Center, L.L.C. ("DHC"). At the time of purchase, Gant and representatives of Cavalier and DHC executed an alternative-dispute-resolution agreement in which they agreed to arbitrate any disputes that might arise among them stemming from Gant's purchase of the mobile home. The mobile home was also covered by a manufacturer's warranty issued by Cavalier that likewise contained a provision requiring arbitration of any disputes that might arise between her and Cavalier relating to the mobile home. Gant was not satisfied with the manner in which DHC delivered and installed the mobile home on her property. Eventually Gant sued, and the matter was submitted to arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Gant $45,550 on her breach-of-express-warranty claim, plus an additional sum to be determined for attorney fees. Cavalier argued on appeal that the trial court erred by confirming the arbitration award in favor of Gant. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cavalier Manufacturing, Inc. v. Gant " on Justia Law

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The issue before the Fourth Circuit concerned commercial arbitration of insurance disputes in foreign tribunals. Appellant-Cross-Appellee ESAB Group, Inc. contended that South Carolina law "reverse preempts" federal law (namely, a treaty and its implementing legislation) pursuant to the McCarran-Ferguson Act. ESAB Group faced numerous products liability suits arising from alleged personal injuries caused by exposure to welding consumables manufactured by ESAB Group or its predecessors. These suits presently were proceeding in numerous state and federal courts in the United States. ESAB Group requested that its insurers defend and indemnify it in these suits. Several, including Zurich Insurance, PLC (ZIP), refused coverage. As a result, ESAB Group brought suit against its insurers in South Carolina state court. The district court then found that ZIP had the requisite minimum contacts with the forum to permit the exercise of personal jurisdiction and that the exercise of jurisdiction over ZIP was otherwise reasonable. Because it had referred to arbitration all claims providing a basis for subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. ESAB Group timely appealed the district court's exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction. ZIP filed a cross-appeal, challenging the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction and its authority to remand the nonarbitrable claims to state court. Upon review, the Fourth Circuit affirmed as to the district court’s exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction, and found no error in the district court's order compelling arbitration. Likewise, the Court rejected ZIP's arguments that the district court erred in exercising personal jurisdiction over it and in remanding nonarbitrable claims to state court. View "ESAB Group, Incorporated v. Zurich Insurance PLC" on Justia Law