Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
Transcor Astra Group S.A. v. Petrobras America Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming in part and reversing in part the judgment of the trial court holding that the settlement agreement between the parties in this case barred the claims asserted in this suit and in an arbitration proceeding, holding that the trial court did not err.A billion-dollar break-up between two large corporations engaged in the international petroleum business resulted in numerous claims and lawsuits, which the parties finally resolved through a comprehensive settlement agreement. The trial court concluded that the settlement agreement, including its release provisions and a disclaimer of reliance, were valid and enforceable and barred the claims asserted in both this lawsuit and in the arbitration proceeding. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that the settlement agreement did not bar certain claims. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the final judgment of the trial court, holding that the parties fully and finally resolved the current claims through their comprehensive settlement agreement. View "Transcor Astra Group S.A. v. Petrobras America Inc." on Justia Law
In re Whataburger Restaurants LLC
The Supreme Court held that a party who does not receive notice of an interlocutory order denying arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act in time to appeal because of the trial court clerk's error may seek review by mandamus.Plaintiff sued her employer alleging negligence. Defendant moved to compel arbitration based on its mandatory arbitration policy. The trial court denied the motion to compel, ruling that the policy was unconscionable. The court of appeals remanded the case, after which Defendant filed a supplemental motion to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion, but the clerk failed to give Defendant notice of the order. Defendant finally received notice of the order five months after it issued. The Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus and directed the trial court promptly to issue an order compelling arbitration of Plaintiff's claims, holding (1) the clerk's failure to give notice of the trial court's order deprived Defendant of an adequate appellate remedy; and (2) the arbitration agreement was not illusory. View "In re Whataburger Restaurants LLC" on Justia Law
Baby Dolls Topless Saloons, Inc. v. Sotero
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that the parties' contract in this case and its arbitration provision were unenforceable on the grounds that the parties never had a meeting of the minds on the contract, holding that the parties formed the agreement reflected in the contract they signed.Plaintiffs, members of the family of a woman killed in a high-speed crash while riding in a car driven by an intoxicated adult entertainer employed by Defendant, sued for wrongful death and survival damages, alleging that Defendant continued serving the driver alcohol after knowing she was clearly intoxicated. Defendant moved to compel arbitration pursuant to a contract containing an arbitration provision that the decedent and Defendant had signed almost two years earlier. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the terms in the contract were not perfectly clear, and therefore, there was no meeting of the minds. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the contract terms were sufficient to constitute an enforceable contract. View "Baby Dolls Topless Saloons, Inc. v. Sotero" on Justia Law
Aerotek, Inc. v. Boyd
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court denying Aerotek, Inc.'s motion to compel arbitration, holding that an alleged signatory's simple denial that he signed the record was insufficient to prevent attribution of an electronic signature to him.Plaintiffs, four individuals, were hired by Aerotek to work as contractors on a construction project. After all four were terminated, they sued Aerotek and others for racial discrimination and retaliation. Aerotek moved to compel arbitration based on an online-only hiring application that each employee had completed. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, arguing that they had completed the online hiring application but denying that they had ever seen or signed a mutual arbitration agreement (MAA) within the application. The trial court denied the motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals affirmed, rejecting Aerotek's argument that it had conclusively established the validity of the MAAs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Aerotek conclusively established that Plaintiffs signed, and therefore consented to, the MAAs; and (2) therefore, the trial court erred in denying Aerotek's motion to compel arbitration. View "Aerotek, Inc. v. Boyd" on Justia Law
Wagner v. Apache Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the trial court concluding that indemnity claims fell within an exception to an arbitration clause and that the non-signatory assignees were bound by the agreement under a theory of assumption, holding that Plaintiffs' request for a declaratory judgment was subject to mandatory arbitration.As president of Wagner Oil Company, Bryan Wagner signed a purchase and sale agreement (PSA) purchasing several assets from Apache Corporation. The PSA contained an indemnification provision and an arbitration clause. Later, third-party surface landowners filed lawsuits against Apache, seeking damages for alleged environmental contamination caused by Apache's operation of the assets before they were sold. Apache filed a demand for arbitration against Plaintiffs, including Wagner Oil and Wagner, for indemnity and defense. Plaintiffs then filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that Plaintiffs were not parties to the PSA and therefore not subject to the arbitration and indemnity clauses. The trial court denied Apache's motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the indemnity disputes over third party-claims fall within the scope of the arbitration clause and outside its exception; and (2) the Wagner Oil signees were bound by the arbitration clause. View "Wagner v. Apache Corp." on Justia Law
In re Copart, Inc.
The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief in this arbitration dispute, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in determining that pre-arbitration discovery was warranted in this case.After Plaintiff's employment was terminated she sued Defendant, her former employer, claiming discrimination and retaliation. Defendant moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the company's employee handbook acknowledgment and agreement, which contained an arbitration agreement. At issue was Plaintiff's second motion to compel pre-arbitration discovery claiming that an enforceable arbitration agreement did not exist. After the trial court granted the motion Defendant sought mandamus relief. The court of appeals denied the motion. The Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus relief, holding that the trial court clearly abused its discretion in ordering pre-arbitration discovery because Plaintiff failed to provide the trial court with a reasonable basis to conclude that it lacked sufficient information to determine whether her claims were arbitrable. View "In re Copart, Inc." on Justia Law
Bonsmara Natural Beef Co. v. Hart of Texas Cattle Feeders, LLC
In this cattle-feeding dispute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals overturning the trial court's denial of Appellees' post-judgment motion to compel arbitration, holding that a party does not forfeit its right to challenge a ruling on appeal from a final judgment simply by choosing not to pursue an interlocutory appeal of that ruling.Appellants brought this action alleging fraud, unjust enrichment, and other claims. Appellees moved to dismiss the suit and compel arbitration, arguing that the claims were subject to the agreement's arbitration clause. The trial court denied the motion, and Appellees did not challenge the court's ruling through an interlocutory appeal. After the trial court rendered judgment Appellees appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied their motion to compel arbitration. The court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions that the trial court order the parties to arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to consider the trial court's denial of Appellees' motion to compel arbitration; and (2) on the merits, the court of appeals did not err in ordering arbitration. View "Bonsmara Natural Beef Co. v. Hart of Texas Cattle Feeders, LLC" on Justia Law
San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P.
In this construction contract dispute, the Supreme Court held that the San Antonio River Authority possessed the authority to agree to arbitrate claims under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271 and exercised that authority in the contract and that the judiciary, rather than an arbitrator, retains the duty to decide whether a local government has waived its governmental immunity.The River Authority hired Austin Bridge and Road L.P. for a construction project. The parties agreed to submit any disputes about the contract to arbitration. Austin Bridge invoked the contract's arbitration provisions when disagreements about the scope of work and payment arose. After the arbitrator denied the River Authority's plea of governmental immunity, the River Authority sued Austin Bridge, arguing that it lacked the authority to agree to the contract's arbitration provisions. The trial court concluded that the arbitration provisions in the contract were enforceable. The court of appeals agreed that the River Authority had the authority to agree to arbitrate but concluded that a court, rather than an arbitrator, must decide whether the River Authority was immune from the claims against it. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 271 waived the River Authority's immunity from suit for Austin Bridge's breach of contract claim. View "San Antonio River Authority v. Austin Bridge & Road, L.P." on Justia Law
Robinson v. Home Owners Management Enterprises, Inc.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court declining to compel arbitration of class claims under the parties' agreement in this case, holding that the lower courts applied the correct legal standards in declining to compel class arbitration.This arbitration dispute between homeowners and their home warranty company evolved into a putative class action complaining about releases the warranty allegedly demanded before making covered repairs. Plaintiffs demanded arbitration, asserting that Defendant was required to arbitrate the class claims under the arbitration provisions in the warranty. The trial court granted Defendant's motion to dismiss, concluding that the question of whether the parties agreed to class arbitration was a question of arbitrability for the court to make and that the warranty agreement did not permit class arbitration. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) arbitratibility of class claims is a gateway issue for the court unless the arbitration agreement clearly and unmistakably expresses a contrary intent; (2) an agreement to arbitrate class claims cannot be inferred from silence or ambiguity, but rather, an express contractual basis is required; and (3) the lower courts correctly determined that Defendant was not bound to arbitrate Plaintiffs' putative class claims. View "Robinson v. Home Owners Management Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law
RSL Funding, LLC v. Newsome
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration of a dispute over which of two orders approving a transfer of a payee’s structured-settlement-payment rights to another under the Structured Settlement Protection Act, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 141.004, controlled, holding that the court of appeals erred in determining that the dispute was one that could not be arbitrated.Specifically, the court of appeals concluded that the dispute over which order controlled was not an arbitrable issue even where an arbitration agreement included in the transfer agreement assigned issues of arbitrability to the arbitrator. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the parties agreed to have the arbitrator decide issues of arbitrability and because the courts below did not question the validity of the parties’ arbitration clause, this dispute must be sent to arbitration for the arbitrator to at least decide arbitrability. View "RSL Funding, LLC v. Newsome" on Justia Law