Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order invaliding the arbitration provision at issue in this case involving an oil and gas lease and remanded with directions that the case be dismissed and referred to arbitration. Petitioner and Respondents were parties to an oil and gas lease that included an arbitration provision. Respondents sued Petitioner, seeking to recover payments to which they claimed to be entitled under the lease and various other damages. Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration, relying on the arbitration provision in the lease. The circuit court denied Petitioner’s motion to compel arbitration, finding ambiguity in the lease’s arbitration provision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in going outside of the provisions in the arbitration clause to find language to create an ambiguity; and (2) the arbitration provision was not ambiguous and therefore should be enforced. View "SWN Production Co. v. Long" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order denying Bluestem Brands, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration brought by Respondent. Bluestem, a retailer of consumer goods, partnered with various bands to offer credit to its customers. The circuit court concluded that the arbitration agreement entered into by the parties was not binding on Respondent. Specifically, the circuit court found that Respondent did not assent to arbitration because she did not receive a copy of the most recent credit card agreement containing arbitration language and that Bluestem’s credit partners, and not Bluestem itself, were party to any potentially applicable credit agreement requiring arbitration. In reversing, the Supreme Court held (1) although the most recent amendments to the credit agreement lacked mutual assent, a prior version of the credit agreement contained a properly formed arbitration agreement and encompassed Respondent’s claims; and (2) Bluestem, as a non-signatory to the agreement, may utilize the theory of equitable estoppel to compel arbitration under the agreement. View "Bluestem Brands, Inc. v. Shade" on Justia Law

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In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, waiver of a contractual right to arbitration is a threshold question of enforceability to be determined by a court, not an arbitrator. Respondents commenced an arbitration against Petitioner pursuant to an agreement between the parties alleging breach of contract. Petitioner ultimately filed a motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction to prohibit Respondents from pursuing their claims through arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order enjoining Respondents from pursuing further arbitration, holding (1) the question of waiver should have been determined by the circuit court rather than an arbitrator; (2) Respondents were not allowed to reinitiate the arbitration process under the American Arbitration Association after having voluntarily abandoned their claims in arbitration under Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.; and (3) Respondents waived their right to pursue any future arbitration under the agreement. View "Williams v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a dispute between a pharmacy network administrator and various West Virginia pharmacies that were network members. Petitioners here were Caremark, LLC, companies affiliated with Caremark, LLC and individuals who were pharmacists-in-charge at certain CVS pharmacies (collectively, CVS/Caremark). Plaintiffs were six West Virginia retail pharmacies and six licensed pharmacists affiliated with those pharmacies (collectively, Pharmacies). Each of the six pharmacies had an agreement with Caremark. The agreements at issue contained an arbitration clause electing the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to govern arbitration. The Pharmacies filed a complaint against CVS/Caremark seeking injunctive relief for violations of W. Va. Code 30-5-7, 33-16-3q and 33-11-4 and also alleged tortious interference and fraud. CVS/Caremark filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the entry of an order dismissing this case and compelling arbitration, holding that the incorporation of the AAA rules into the arbitration agreements constituted clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties agreed to delegate questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator. View "West Virginia CVS Pharmacy, LLC v. McDowell Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, were former students in the nursing program at Salem International University (Salem). When Plaintiffs enrolled, they signed enrollment agreements that contained an arbitration clause. Plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint against Salem and its president (collectively, Salem) alleging that they were denied the opportunity to complete their coursework in nursing at Salem as a result of the nursing program’s loss of accreditation. Salem filed a motion to stay proceedings pending mandatory alternative dispute resolution. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration agreement did not include an enforceable class action litigation waiver. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration agreement acted as a class action litigation waiver barring Plaintiffs from seeking judicial relief as a class. View "Salem International University v. Bates" on Justia Law

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This litigation arose out of the construction of the home of Randie Lawson and Deanna Lawson (together, Respondents). G & G Builders, Inc. (Petitioner) filed suit asserting that it was owed $303,686 under the parties’ construction agreement. Respondents asserted a counterclaim for breach of contract. Petitioner then filed a motion to dismiss Respondents’ counterclaim and to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration provisions in the construction agreement were not binding on Randie because they were set forth in a document that was never provided to him, nor were they binding on Deanna, who was a non-signatory to the agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that there was no agreement between the parties to arbitrate their dispute. View "G & G Builders, Inc. v. Lawson" on Justia Law

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Robert Perry was issued a Citibank MasterCard account in 1998. The terms and conditions of the Citibank Card Agreement governing Perry’s account included an arbitration agreement. In 2010, Citibank filed a debt collection action against Perry seek to recover the balance owed on Perry’s account. In 2015, Perry filed an answer to Citibank’s complaint and a class counterclaim alleging that Citibank had violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. Thereafter, Citibank filed a motion asking the court to compel arbitration of the parties’ claims. The circuit court concluded that Citibank had implicitly waived its right to arbitration by filing suit in circuit court and waiting nearly five years before seeking to invoke its contractual right to arbitrate. Citibank appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Citibank did not waive its right to compel arbitration in this matter. Remanded. View "Citibank, N.A. v. Perry" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff signed a contract with Defendant for the construction of a house. The contract contained an arbitration clause. Plaintiff later brought suit against Defendant, claiming that there were defects in the house. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, finding that the arbitration clause was unconscionable. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by ruling on questions of arbitrability despite the existence of a delegation provision in the arbitration agreement that vested the arbitrator with authority to determine issues of arbitrability relating to the dispute. The Supreme Court determined that the circuit court was within its rights not to enforce the delegation language because the language did not reflect the parties’ clear and unmistakable intention to delegate issues about the validity, revocability, or enforceability of the arbitration agreement to an arbitrator. The United States Supreme Court granted Defendant’s requested writ of certiorari, vacated the Supreme Court’s opinion, and remanded for further consideration in light of their decision in DIRECTV, Inc. v. Imburgia. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order, holding that because Plaintiffs never specifically challenged the delegation language before the circuit court or Supreme Court, Plaintiffs waived any right to challenge the delegation language. Remanded for arbitration. View "Schumacher Homes of Circleville v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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Bayles rolled over his 401(k) retirement account, signing an Ameriprise Brokerage Individual Retirement Account Application. Bayles later signed an Active Portfolios Application-IRA Account Application. The first page of each application states that a copy of the related Brokerage Agreement must be provided to the client; the IRA Application states: You acknowledge that you have received and read the Ameriprise Brokerage Client Agreement and agree to abide by its terms….. This brokerage account is governed by a predispute arbitration clause which is found on Section 26.... You acknowledge receipt of the predispute arbitration clause." Similar language appears in the Portfolios Application. Bayles died in 2013. His wife thought she was the beneficiary, but decedent’s children were the designated primary beneficiaries on both accounts. Mrs. Bayles challenged Ameriprise’s payout of the proceeds. The defendants unsuccessfully moved to compel arbitration. The trial court found the absence of a signature on a brokerage agreement created an ambiguity that invalidated the arbitration clause. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed and remanded. Decedent signed the IRA Application, expressly acknowledging the arbitration clause, but there are unresolved issues, including whether the arbitration clause is unconscionable and whether anyof Mrs. Bayles’ claims “fall within the substantive scope of that arbitration agreement.” View "Jeffrey N. Evans/Ameriprise Fin. Servs. v. Bayles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who was employed by Defendant, signed an employment agreement providing that all disputes with Defendant shall be resolved through arbitration. After Plaintiff’s employment ended, Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that Defendant did not timely pay him his final wages as required by the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. After a seven-month delay, Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court granted the motion, dismissed Plaintiff’s complaint, and compelled the parties to participate in arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant did not waive its right to arbitrate through its acts and language. View "Parsons v. Halliburton Energy Servs., Inc." on Justia Law