Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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In this case involving an order compelling Plaintiff to arbitrate her dispute with an investment firm the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order to the extent that it included language that invaded the province of the arbitrator but otherwise affirmed the order dismissing Plaintiff's suit and compelling her to arbitrate. Plaintiff's deceased husband created two accounts with an investment firm, and the documents he signed required the arbitration of any account disputes. After the investment company paid the proceeds of both accounts to two other individuals, Plaintiff brought this suit, asserting her right to the proceeds of the accounts. The circuit court concluded that Plaintiff was required to comply with the arbitration agreements even though she was a nonsignatory. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court properly determined that Plaintiff was required to arbitrate her claims to the proceeds of both accounts; but (2) the circuit court erred in including improper language in its order that exceeded the court's authority. View "Bayles v. Evans" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion to compel arbitration of Respondents' claims against them, holding that a merger clause in the retail sales installment contract (RISC) between the parties served to supplant the arbitration agreement contained in the previously-executed credit application. Respondents purchased a new truck from Petitioners. Respondents first executed a credit application that contained an arbitration provision. Thereafter, the parties executed the RSIC, which did not contain an arbitration clause. After Respondents defaulted on their loan Petitioners began collection efforts. Respondents filed this complaint asserting that Petitioners harassed them by phone even after being advised they were represented by counsel. Petitioners moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration provision contained in the credit application. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration provisions in the credit application did not survive the merger clause of the RISC, thereby nullifying Respondents' obligation to arbitrate their claims against Petitioners. View "TD Auto Finance LLC v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court refusing to enforce an arbitration agreement, holding that individuals may agree to arbitrate a dispute regarding a cloud on the title to real estate. Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a contract whereby Plaintiff would convey almost 1,000 acres of mineral interests to Defendant. The contract contained an arbitration clause requiring the parties to refer any dispute about the parties' performance of the contract to arbitration. Later, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment to determine whether a cloud on the title to the mineral interests existed. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and to compel the parties to arbitrate. The circuit court refused the motion, finding that Plaintiff's claims fell outside the scope of the arbitration clause because, as a matter of public policy, property rights are not subject to arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) parties may agree to submit to arbitration questions concerning clouds on the title to any estate, right, or interest in real property despite W. Va. Code 51-2-2(d) vesting circuit courts with jurisdiction to resolve those questions; and (2) there was an, enforceable agreement to arbitrate here, and the parties' controversy fell within the scope of that arbitration agreement. View "Golden Eagle Resources,II, LLC v. Willow Run Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court denying a motion to compel arbitration, holding that the court's order did not contain sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law for the Supreme Court to conduct a proper review. Plaintiff sued Defendant for invasion of privacy and alleging that they violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, W.Va. Code 46A-1-101 to -8-102. Defendants moved to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration, apparently determining that no arbitration agreement was formed and, simultaneously, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and should not be enforced. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's order, holding that the case must be remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings, including the determination of whether any arbitration agreement existed between the parties and, if so, whether that agreement was unconscionable. View "Certegy Check Services v. Fuller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court finding a delegation clause in an arbitration agreement unconscionable and refusing to enforce the arbitration agreement, holding that the delegation clause was neither unconscionable nor unenforceable. Respondent, who was terminated from her employment, filed workers' compensation discrimination claims against Petitioners. Petitioner moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration agreement that Respondent signed at the time she was hired. The circuit court refused to enforce the arbitration agreement on the grounds that the agreement's delegation clause was ambiguous, unconscionable and in violation of W. Va. Code 23-2-7. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the delegation clause clearly and unmistakably showed the parties' intent to send gateway questions of arbitration to an arbitrator; (2) the delegation clause was valid; and (3) the circuit court should have referred the parties' arguments about the enforceability of the arbitration agreement to the arbitrator. View "Rent-A-Center Inc. v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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In this long-running contractual dispute between Petitioners, the West Virginia Investment Management Board (IMB) and the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board (CPRB) and Respondent, The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC), the Supreme Court affirmed the order dismissing this matter from the Business Court Division’s docket in reliance on conclusions reached in an arbitration panel’s final decision. The first time the parties were before the Supreme Court, the Court reversed a summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The Court further directed that the matter be referred to the Business Court Division. Due to the complexity of the case, the parties agreed to submit the dispute to binding arbitration before a panel of three business court judges. The panel unanimously found in favor of Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no cause to void the parties’ agreement to submit the matter to binding arbitration; and (2) Petitioners’ arguments that the panel failed to apply the law of the case and neglected to decide all issues before it were unavailing. View "W. Va. Investment Management Board v. Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this long-running contractual dispute between Petitioners, the West Virginia Investment Management Board (IMB) and the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board (CPRB) and Respondent, The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC), the Supreme Court affirmed the order dismissing this matter from the Business Court Division’s docket in reliance on conclusions reached in an arbitration panel’s final decision. The first time the parties were before the Supreme Court, the Court reversed a summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The Court further directed that the matter be referred to the Business Court Division. Due to the complexity of the case, the parties agreed to submit the dispute to binding arbitration before a panel of three business court judges. The panel unanimously found in favor of Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no cause to void the parties’ agreement to submit the matter to binding arbitration; and (2) Petitioners’ arguments that the panel failed to apply the law of the case and neglected to decide all issues before it were unavailing. View "W. Va. Investment Management Board v. Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review’s finding that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, Jimmie Lemon’s injury was work related. Jimmie Lemon filed a workers’ compensation claim claiming that his low back injury occurred in the course of and resulting from his employment with Arch Coal, Inc. The Office of Judges found the claim compensable and designated Lemon’s compensable condition as a herniated disc. The Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with directions that the claim be rejected, concluding that Lemon’s injury was not work-related. Upon reconsideration, the Supreme Court upheld the prior administrative finding that Lemon’s injury was work-related. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review and remanded with directions to reinstate the decisions of the Office of judges and the Board of Review that Lemon’s claim was compensable. View "Arch Coal, Inc. v. Lemon" on Justia Law

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A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Plaintiff alleging a deliberate intent claim and violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (Act) the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s rulings and remanded the case for entry of an order dismissing the action and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff instituted this civil action against Hampden Coal, LLC, his employer, and his supervisor alleging a deliberate intent claim related to his workplace injury and two violations of the Act arising from his demotion. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement Appellant signed as a condition of his employment. The circuit court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss and refused to compel arbitration, concluding, among other things, that the arbitration agreement was invalid because it lacked consideration and was both substantively and procedurally unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) more stringent or different standards do not apply to consideration of arbitration agreements in the employment context; (2) the parties’ agreement to arbitrate their disputes served as consideration for the agreement; (3) the agreement was neither substantively or procedurally unconscionable; (4) Plaintiff’s claims did not fall outside the scope of the agreement; and (5) the circuit court erred in finding that the agreement was an employment contract. View "Hampden Coal, LLC v. Varney" on Justia Law