Articles Posted in U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local No. 7 sued King Soopers, Inc. to enforce an arbitration award. The federal district court ruled that the award did not stem from the Union’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with King Soopers and refused to enforce it. The Tenth Circuit reversed, finding that although King Soopers could have brought a timely action to vacate the award on the ground adopted by the district court, it did not do so. It therefore could not raise that defense against the Union’s action to enforce the award. For the same reason, the Court held that King Soopers could not raise the defense that the arbitrator lacked authority to impose a remedy. View "United Food & Commercial v. King Soopers" on Justia Law

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THI of New Mexico at Hobbs Center, LLC and THI of New Mexico, LLC (collectively THI) operate a nursing home in Hobbs, New Mexico. When Lillie Mae Patton's husband was admitted into the home, he entered into an arbitration agreement that required the parties to arbitrate any dispute arising out of his care at the home except claims relating to guardianship proceedings, collection or eviction actions by THI, or disputes of less than $2,500. After Mr. Patton died, Mrs. Patton sued THI for negligence and misrepresentation. THI then filed a complaint to compel arbitration of the claims. The district court initially ruled that the arbitration agreement was not unconscionable and ordered arbitration. Under New Mexico law a compulsory-arbitration provision in a contract may be unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable, if it applies only, or primarily, to claims that just one party to the contract is likely to bring. The question before the Tenth Circuit was whether the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) preempted the state law for contracts governed by the FAA. The Court held that New Mexico law was preempted in this case and the arbitration clause should have been enforced. View "THI of New Mexico at Hobbs v. Patton" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Air Method Corporation terminated a helicopter pilot, Jeff Stackpole, following a 2010 incident. Defendant Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 109 (OPEIU) represented Mr. Stackpole throughout the arbitration process. After the arbitration award was granted in Mr. Stackpole’s favor, Plaintiff filed a complaint against OPEIU Local 109 pursuant to the Railway Labor Act, seeking to vacate the award. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled in favor of Defendants, thereby upholding the arbitration award. Plaintiff appealed the district court’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the arbitration award. View "Air Methods Corporation v. OPEIU, et al" on Justia Law

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Qwest Corporation and Qwest Broadband Services, Inc. appealed a district court order granting partial summary judgment. After Richard Grosvenor filed a putative class action, Qwest moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. The district court denied Qwest’s motion and scheduled a trial to determine whether the parties had reached an agreement to arbitrate. Both parties then moved for partial summary judgment. The district court granted both motions in a single order, concluding that the parties entered into an agreement, but that the agreement was illusory and unenforceable. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit, Qwest argued that the Tenth Circuit had jurisdiction to review the district court's order. Finding that in order to invoke appellate jurisdiction under the FAA, Qwest did not satisfy the Act's criteria by either explicitly moving to stay litigation and/or compel arbitration pursuant to the FAA, or making it unmistakably clear from the four corners of the motion that the movant sought relief provided for in the FAA. Accordingly, the Court dismissed Qwest's appeal. View "Grosvenor v. Qwest Corporation, et al" on Justia Law

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Avaya Inc. ("Avaya") appealed a district court's ruling compelling arbitration of its labor dispute with the Communication Workers of America ("CWA") over the legal status of a class of Avaya employees called "backbone engineers." The union viewed the backbone engineers as non-represented "occupational" employees and legitimate objects for its organizing campaigns, while Avaya saw them as managers outside the scope of the company's labor agreements. CWA contended the parties' collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") required any dispute over the status of backbone engineers to be resolved in arbitration. Avaya maintained the parties did not consent to arbitrate the status of its backbone engineers and accused CWA of trying to unilaterally enlarge the CBA to encompass disputes over company management. Having reviewed the CBA and the evidence submitted to the district court, the Tenth Circuit agreed with Avaya's position and reversed the district court's order compelling arbitration. View "CWA v. Avaya, Inc." on Justia Law

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San Juan Coal Company and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 953 entered into binding arbitration to determine whether union members on a certain schedule were entitled to holdover pay. The arbitrator concluded that the union members were entitled to the extra pay, but on review, the district court overturned the arbitral award. Because the arbitrator’s interpretation was colorable, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court improperly substituted its interpretation of the agreement: "[a]n arbitrator's interpretation of an agreement, even one that is flawed or based on questionable findings of fact, is due the utmost judicial deference. It matters not that a reviewing court might offer a more cogent reading of the agreement; the arbitrator's interpretation must be upheld wholly unless it is without any textual basis." View "San Juan Coal Co. v. Int'l Union of Operating Engineers Local 953" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Dennis Cornwell brought a wrongful death action on behalf of his wife who died at a railroad grade crossing when the vehicle she was driving hit a locomotive owned and operated by Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company. Union Pacific moved for summary judgment and also moved to exclude the testimony of Plaintiff's four experts based on "Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc." (509 U.S. 579 (1993)). The district court granted the summary judgment motion in part and ruled that the testimony of three experts should be excluded. The case proceeded to a jury trial. At its conclusion, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Union Pacific. Plaintiff appealed seeking to overturn the pre-trial rulings. Finding that the district court's ruling was supported by Tenth Circuit precedent and case law from other circuits, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision: "[t]he district court determined that [Plaintiff's experts'] proffered evidence was unreliable under "Daubert" standards: their evidence was speculative and conclusory." The Court therefore affirmed the exclusion of the experts' testimony and the grant of summary judgment in favor of the railroad. View "Cornwell v. Union Pacific Railroad Co." on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, Defendants Medtronic, Inc. (and several of its subsidiaries) appealed a district court's denial of their motion to compel Plaintiff Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corporation (LM) to arbitrate its antitrust claims against them even though none of the Defendants signed the distribution and licensing agreement containing the arbitration provision. Upon review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit concluded that even if LM's antitrust claims either expressly or implicitly alleged collusion between subsidiary Medatronic Danek USA and one or more of the other Medtronic subsidiaries, they were not "intimately founded in or intertwined with" the obligations in the agreement at issue in this case. "In sum, equity does not demand that LM be compelled to arbitrate its antitrust claims against the Medtronic Defendants. The district court therefore did not err in denying the Medtronic Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration." View "Lenox MacLaren Surgical Corp. v. Medtronic, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Chevron Mining, Inc. (CMI) appealed a district court's denial of its motion to vacate an arbitration award that reinstated CMI employee John Weston following his termination for just cause. CMI argued on appeal that the arbitrator's decision to reverse CMI's just-cause determination based on "forgivable" rule violations did not "draw its essence" from the governing collective bargaining agreement and that the award imposed contradicted and modified the CBA's terms. Upon review of the arbitration award, the collective bargaining agreement at issue and the applicable legal authority, the Tenth Circuit found that the arbitrator's award was compliant with the governing CBA, and affirmed the arbitration award. View "Chevron Mining Inc. v. United Mine Workers of America" on Justia Law