Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of California
Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia VII) v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co.
The Supreme Court held that the Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters (Convention) does not apply when parties have agreed to waive formal service of process in favor of a specified type of notification. Defendant, a company based in China, and Plaintiff entered into a contract providing that the parties would submit to the jurisdiction of California courts and to resolve disputes between them through California arbitration. The parties further agreed to provide notice and service of process to each other through Federal Express or a similar courier. Plaintiff later sought arbitration. Defendant neither responded nor appeared for the arbitration, and the arbitrator awarded Plaintiff $414,601,200. Defendant moved to set aside default judgment for insufficiency of service of process, arguing that Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Convention rendered the judgment confirming the arbitration award void. The motion was denied. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Convention applies only when the law of the forum state requires formal service of process to be sent abroad; and (2) because the parties' contract constituted a waiver of formal service under California law in favor of an alternative form of notification, the Convention does not apply. View "Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia VII) v. Changzhou SinoType Technology Co." on Justia Law
Heimlich v. Shivji
In this dispute over attorney fees and costs following arbitration the Supreme Court held (1) a request for costs under Cal. Code Civ. P. 998 is timely if filed with the arbitrator within fifteen days of a final award and that judicial review is limited if an arbitrator refuses to award costs; and (2) the court of appeal erred in relying on a narrow exception to those limits. Client retained Attorney, and the representation agreement included a clause providing for private arbitration of disputes involving legal fees. Attorney later sued Client alleging that he owed outstanding legal fees. Client made an offer to settle the case under section 998, but the offer was not accepted. Thereafter, Client filed a demand for arbitration, which the court granted. The arbitrator issued an award granting $0 to both parties. Thereafter, Client sought costs. The arbitrator refused to award costs. The trial court confirmed the award and also refused to add costs. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) evidence of a section 998 offer may be presented before or after a final arbitration award; (2) Client's request for costs was timely; but (3) the arbitrator's denial of costs cannot be vacated. View "Heimlich v. Shivji" on Justia Law
Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that this lawsuit brought by security guards at Oracle Park (the former AT&T Park in San Francisco) against San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC (the Giants) alleging a violation of Cal. Lab. Code 201, subd. (a) was preempted under federal law and must be submitted to arbitration, holding that the trial court correctly denied the Giants' motion to compel arbitration. In this action, the guards claimed that they were discharged after every Giants homestead, at the end of the baseball season, and after other events at the park, and that they were entitled under section 201 to receive their unpaid wages immediately after each discharge. The Giants moved to compel arbitration, arguing that this action was preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act because the controversy required interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) entered into between the parties. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) while the CBA may be relevant to this lawsuit, the dispute turned on the meaning of "discharge" under section 201 rather than an interpretation of the CBA itself; and (2) therefore, the lawsuit was not preempted, and state courts may decide it on the merits. View "Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates LLC" on Justia Law
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP v. J-M Manufacturing Co.
In this dispute between a law firm and the party it previously represented, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal insofar as it reversed the superior court’s judgment entered on an arbitration award but reversed the Court of Appeal’s judgment insofar as it ordered disgorgement of all fees collected, holding that the law firm's conduct rendered the parties' arbitration agreement unenforceable but that the ethical violation did not categorically disentitle the law firm from recovering the value of services it rendered to the opposing party. A law firm agreed to represent a manufacturing company in a federal qui tam action. The law firm was later disqualified, and the parties disagreed as to the manufacturer’s outstanding law firm bills. The dispute was sent to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration clause in the parties’ engagement agreement, and the arbitrators ruled in favor of the law firm. The superior court confirmed the award. The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding (1) the law firm committed an ethical violation that rendered the parties’ agreement, including the arbitration clause, unenforceable in its entirety; and (2) the law firm was disentitled from receiving any compensation for the work it performed for the manufacturer. The Supreme Court agreed that the law firm’s conduct rendered the parties’ agreement unenforceable but concluded that the ethical violation did not categorically disentitle the law firm from recovering the value of the services it rendered to the manufacturer. View "Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP v. J-M Manufacturing Co." on Justia Law
Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board
The Agricultural Labor Relations Act’s (ARLA) “mandatory mediation and conciliation” (MMC) statute neither violates equal protection nor unconstitutionally delegates legislative power. Further, employers may not refuse to bargain with unions - whether during the ordinary bargaining process or during MMC - on the basis that the union has abandoned its representative status. In this case, the United Farm Workers’ of America (UFW) filed an MMC request with the Agricultural Labor Relations Board after failing to reach a collective bargaining agreement with Gerawan Farming, Inc. Mediation also failed to produce an agreement, and therefore, the mediator submitted a report fixing the contractual terms. The Board adopted the report in its final order. The court of appeal concluded (1) the MMC statute on its face violates equal protection principles and improperly delegates legislative authority, and (2) an employer may not defend against a union’s MMC request by challenging the union’s certification as bargaining representative on the basis of abandonment. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the MMC statutes is not unconstitutional; and (2) an employer may not raise an abandonment defense to an MMC request. View "Gerawan Farming, Inc. v. Agricultural Labor Relations Board" on Justia Law
McGill v. Citibank, N.A.
Plaintiff opened a credit card account with Defendant Citibank, N.A. and purchased a credit protector plan. Defendant later amended the original agreement by adding an arbitration provision. The provision waived the right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum. The arbitration provision became effective in 2001. In 2011, Plaintiff filed this class action based on Defendant’s marketing of the Plan and the handling of a claim she made under it when she lost her job, alleging claims under the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA), the unfair competition law (UCL), and the false advertising law. Defendant petitioned to compel Plaintiff to arbitrate her claims on an individual basis pursuant to the arbitration provision. Based on the Broughton-Cruz rule, the trial court ordered Plaintiff to arbitrate all claims other than those for injunctive relief under the UCL, the CLRA, and the false advertising law. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for the trial court to order all of Plaintiff’s claims to arbitration, concluding that the Federal Arbitration Act preempts the Broughton-Cruz rule. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration provision was invalid and unenforceable because it waived Plaintiff’s right to seek public injunctive relief in any forum. Remanded. View "McGill v. Citibank, N.A." on Justia Law
Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc.
When Plaintiff was hired by Defendants, he signed multiple arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. Plaintiff later sued Defendant, alleging racial discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The complaint sought to bring claims on behalf of a “class of current and former employees of color.” Defendants filed a motion to compel individual arbitration based on the arbitration agreements. The trial court granted the motion but struck the class allegations, concluding that the agreements did not permit class arbitration. The court of appeal reversed in part, ruling (1) the trial court erred in concluding that existing precedent compelled the court to determine whether class arbitration was available; and (2) the availability of class proceedings under an arbitration agreement is for an arbitrator to decide in the first instance. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there is no universal rule allocating the decision of whether an arbitration agreement permits or prohibits classwide arbitration to a court or an arbitrator, but rather, who decides is in the first instance a matter of agreement with the parties’ agreement subject to interpretation under state contract law; and (2) under state law, the arbitration agreement in this case allocates the decision to the arbitrator. View "Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc." on Justia Law
Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc.
As a condition of her employment with Defendants, Plaintiff signed an agreement to resolve any employment-related disputes through arbitration. After Plaintiff resigned, she filed a complaint against Defendants, alleging that she suffered harassment, discrimination, and retaliation during the course of her employment. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiff opposed the motion, asserting that it was unconscionable. The trial court agreed with Plaintiff and denied the motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeal reversed. The primary issue before the Supreme Court was whether the arbitration agreement was unconscionable because of a clause in the agreement providing that, in the event a claim proceeds to arbitration, the parties are authorized to seek preliminary injunctive relief in the superior court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable because the clause did no more that restate existing law. View "Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc." on Justia Law