Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
Walthour, et al. v. Chipio Windshield Repair, LLC, et al.
Plaintiffs appealed the district court's order compelling arbitration and dismissing their complaint filed against defendants. At issue was whether the arbitration agreement, which waived an employee's ability to bring a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq., was enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq. The court concluded that, after examining the FLSA's text, legislative history, purposes, and Supreme Court precedent, it discerned no "contrary congressional command" that precluded the enforcement of plaintiffs' Arbitration Agreements and their collective action waivers. The court concluded that plaintiffs' reliance on the Supreme Court's 1945 decision in Brooklyn Savings Bank v. O'Neil was materially distinguishable from this case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Walthour, et al. v. Chipio Windshield Repair, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Martinez v. Carnival Corp.
Plaintiff, a Honduran citizen who suffered a back injury while employed as a mason aboard one of Carnival's ships, filed suit against Carnival in state court asserting claims of Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104, negligence, unseaworthiness, and failure to provide adequate maintenance and cure. Plaintiff alleged that the physician chosen and paid by Carnival negligently performed his back surgery. Carnival removed to federal court. On appeal, plaintiff appealed the district court's order compelling arbitration of his claims under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (CREFAA), 9 U.S.C. 201-208. Plaintiff argued that his Jones Act claim did not fall within his employment contract ("Seafarer's Agreement") with Carnival and, therefore, was not within the scope of the contract's arbitration clause. The court concluded that the order compelling plaintiff to arbitrate his claims was "a final decision with respect to arbitration," and the court had appellate jurisdiction. The court also concluded that plaintiff's dispute with Carnival clearly arose out of or in connection with the Seafarer's Agreement and was subject to arbitration. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order. View "Martinez v. Carnival Corp." on Justia Law
Dasher v. RBC Bank (USA)
Plaintiff and other checking account customers filed suit against the Bank for allegedly charging excessive overdraft fees in breach of their account agreement. The district court denied the Bank's renewed motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that state law applied when courts determined whether a valid arbitration agreement is in effect, and the Federal Arbitration Act's, 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., presumption did not; under North Carolina law, the Bank Agreement was entirely superseded, and the arbitration agreement in that agreement therefore became ineffective; the district court properly looked to the PNC Agreement to determine whether the parties agreed to arbitrate their disputes; under North Carolina law, the PNC Agreement's silence was insufficient to form such an agreement; based on the terms of the agreement, the PNC Agreement applied retroactively; and because the agreement governing the dispute at hand did not permit the Bank to compel arbitration, the district court properly denied the motion. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Dasher v. RBC Bank (USA)" on Justia Law
Southern Communications Serv. v. Thomas
This case involved arbitration proceedings stemming from plaintiff's class action suit alleging, among other things, that SouthernLINC's termination fees were unlawful penalties under Georgia law. SouthernLINC, a wireless provider, appealed the district court's denial of its motion to vacate two arbitration awards. Under the standard set forth by the Supreme Court in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter, the court concluded that the arbitrator did not exceed his powers under section 10(a)(4) of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., either in construing the arbitration clause as he did or in certifying a class. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Southern Communications Serv. v. Thomas" on Justia Law
Garcia v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.
Plaintiffs in these five separate putative class actions alleged that Wells Fargo and Wachovia Bank unlawfully charged them overdraft fees for their checking accounts, which were governed by agreements that provided for arbitration of disputes on an individual basis. On appeal, Wells Fargo argued that it did not waive its right to compel arbitration because it would have been futile to move to compel arbitration before the Supreme Court decided AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion. The court concluded that Concepcion established no new law. Because the court concluded that it would have been futile for Wells Fargo to argue that the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., preempted any state laws that purported to make the classwide arbitration provisions unenforceable, the court affirmed the denial of its motion to compel arbitration. View "Garcia v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law
Harrisson v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.
Plaintiff, a former seaman employee of defendant, was injured on the job and sued defendant in Florida state court claiming that defendant was negligent under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104, and failed to provide maintenance and care as required by U.S. maritime law. Defendant, noting that plaintiff's employment contract required the parties to submit disputes to arbitration, removed the case to federal district court under 9 U.S.C. 205. After the removal, the district court in a single order denied defendant's motion to enforce the arbitration clause on the basis that the arbitration clause was void under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (Convention) for violating public policy and remanded the matter back to state court. Defendant appealed this order. Plaintiff moved to dismiss the appeal and argued that by concluding that the arbitration clause was null and void, there was no longer a basis for jurisdiction. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and the court subsequently granted plaintiff's motion to dismiss defendant's appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Harrisson v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law
Entrekin v. Westside Terrace, LLC
When Edith Entrekin was admitted to a nursing home in Alabama, she signed a contract requiring the arbitration of "all claims or disputes" that she or the executor of her future estate might have against the nursing home. After Entrekin died, the executor of her estate brought an action against the nursing home for damages under Alabama's wrongful death statute. The district court denied the nursing home's motion to compel arbitration. The issue on appeal to the Eleventh circuit centered on whether a decedent's agreement with a nursing home to arbitrate any claims that she or her executor may have in the future against the nursing home bind her executor to arbitrate a wrongful death claim against the nursing home under Alabama law? The Court found it was "compelled" to follow the Alabama Supreme Court's holdings and compel arbitration of the wrongful death claim in this case. The Court reversed the district court's order denying the nursing home's motion to compel arbitration and remanded the case with instructions to compel arbitration. View "Entrekin v. Westside Terrace, LLC" on Justia Law
Williams v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.
This appeal concerned the Eleventh Circuit's authority to review an order remanding an action based on an antecedent and erroneous ruling that an agreement to arbitrate was unenforceable. Petitioner St. Hugh Williams filed in a Florida court a complaint that, while working onboard the M/V Norwegian Sky, he was injured as a result of the negligence and other tortious conduct of the owner of the ship, NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. NCL removed the action to the district court on the ground that Petitioner was contractually bound to arbitrate his complaint under the United Nations Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, but Petitioner moved to remand the action to state court. The district court ruled that the arbitration clause was unenforceable and granted Petitioner's motion to remand. NCL appealed, and the Eleventh Circuit later held in "Lindo v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd.," (652 F.3d 1257 (11th Cir. 2011)), that an agreement to arbitrate under the Convention is enforceable. Petitioner argued that the Eleventh Circuit lacked jurisdiction, but the Court found that it had jurisdiction to review the denial of the motion to compel under "City of Waco v. U.S. Fidelity & Guaranty Co.," (293 U.S. 140 (1934)). The Court reversed the order denying the motion to compel of NCL, vacated the order remanding Petitioner's complaint to state court, and remanded the case with instructions to compel arbitration. View "Williams v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd." on Justia Law
Barras v. Branch Banking & Trust Co.
Defendant-Appellant Branch Banking & Trust Company (BB&T) appealed the denial of its motion to compel arbitration of a putative class action brought by Plaintiff-Appellee Lacy Baras, a customer of BB&T. Barras alleged in her complaint on behalf of herself and the class she sought to represent that BB&T charged her and others overdraft fees for payments from checking accounts even when the account contained sufficient funds to cover the payments. She also alleged that BB&T supplied inaccurate and misleading information about account balances, and failed to notify customers about changes to BB&T's policies for processing checking account transactions, thereby increasing overdraft charges assessed against customers. Barras asserted claims under the state Unfair Trade Practices Act for unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing and unconscionability, and sought to certify a class of BB&T account holders who were likewise charged allegedly inflated overdraft fees. BB&T moved to compel arbitration of all of Barras's claims pursuant to a provision in its "Bank Services Agreement" (BSA). The district court denied BB&T's motion, holding that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable under state law, and could not be enforced. Before the Eleventh Circuit decided BB&T's appeal to that order, the Supreme Court decided "AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion" (131 S.Ct. 1740 (2011). The Eleventh Circuit remanded the case to the district court for reconsideration in light of that decision. On remand, BB&T renewed its motion to compel arbitration, and again the district court denied it. BB&T appealed that ruling, arguing that: (1) the question of whether the arbitration provision was enforceable must be resolved by an arbitrator; (2) the cost-and-fee shifting provision in the agreement that the district court held unconscionable did not apply to the arbitration provision; (3) "Concepcion" prohibited application of the state unconscionability doctrine to the arbitration provision; (4) the cost-and-fee shifting provision is not unconscionable; and (5) the cost-and-fee shifting privision was severable from the arbitration process. Taking each argument in turn, the Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case with instructions to compel arbitration. View "Barras v. Branch Banking & Trust Co." on Justia Law
In re: Application of Consorcio Ecuatoriano
This case arose from a foreign shipping contract billing dispute between Consorcio Ecuatoriano de Telecomunicaciones S.A. (CONECEL) and Jet Air Service Equador S.A. (JASE). CONECEL filed an application in the Southern District of Florida under 28 U.S.C. 1782 to obtain discovery for use in foreign proceedings in Ecuador. According to CONECEL, the foreign proceedings included both a pending arbitration brought by JASE against CONECEL for nonpayment under the contract, and contemplated civil and private criminal suits CONECEL might bring against two of its former employees who, CONECEL claims, may have violated Ecuador's collusion laws in connection with processing and approving JASE's allegedly inflated invoices. CONECEL's application sought discovery from JASE's United States counterpart, JAS Forwarding (USA), Inc. (JAS USA), which does business in Miami and was involved in the invoicing operations at issue in the dispute. The district court granted the application and authorized CONECEL to issue a subpoena. Thereafter, JASE intervened and moved to quash the subpoena and vacate the order granting the application. The district court denied the motion, as well as a subsequent motion for reconsideration. JASE appealed the denial of both. After thorough review and having had the benefit of oral argument, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the orders of the district court. the Court concluded that the panel before which which JASE and CONECEL's dispute was pending acts as a first-instance decisionmaker; it permits the gathering and submission of evidence; it resolves the dispute; it issues a binding order; and its order is subject to judicial review. The discovery statute requires nothing more. The Court also held that the district court did not abuse its considerable discretion in granting the section 1782 discovery application over JASE's objections that it would be forced to produce proprietary and confidential information. The application was narrowly tailored and primarily requested information concerning JASE's billing of CONECEL, which was undeniably at issue in the current dispute between the parties." Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying JASE's motion for reconsideration. View "In re: Application of Consorcio Ecuatoriano" on Justia Law