Articles Posted in U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Plaintiffs filed suit against RAC after entering into a rental agreement with RAC for a wooden trundle bed and mattress infested with bedbugs. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's order compelling arbitration of their breach of warranty claim under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. 2301 et seq. Relying on regulation promulgated by the FTC under its authority to interpret the Act, plaintiffs argued that RAC could not require binding arbitration as part of a consumer warranty. The court concluded that the district court erred in holding that the FTC regulations contained no ban on binding arbitration. However, the FTC arbitration ban simply did not apply to plaintiffs' rental agreement with RAC. Because plaintiffs have not linked RAC's warranty to any sale, they failed to establish the existence of a written warranty under FTC regulations. Accordingly, the binding arbitration clause was enforceable and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Seney v. Rent-a-Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, five current or former temporary employees of the School Board, filed a class action complaint asserting employee-compensation claims against the School Board, its chair, and the Union. Plaintiffs alleged that even though the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) excluded "temporary employees" from the bargaining unit, they were entitled to the benefits of an arbitration award entered as the result of an arbitration between the School Board and the Union, as well as benefits from the underlying CBA. The court concluded that the Union adequately consented to the notice of removal to federal court; that neither substantive claim asserted by plaintiffs stated a plausible claim for which relief could be granted; and that the district court did not err in striking plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration of the district court's dismissal order. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Mayo v. Board of Education of Prince George's County" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the court considered the enforceability of an arbitration clause included in a franchise agreement between plaintiff and Shuttle Express. The court concluded that the Supreme Court's recent decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion required reversal of the district court's holding that the class action waiver in the franchise agreement was an unconscionable contract provision; the district court erred in holding that the other two challenged provisions of the franchise agreement also rendered the arbitration clause unconscionable; and therefore, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for entry of an order compelling arbitration. View "Muriithi v. Shuttle Express, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendants, individual investors, sought to arbitrate claims against plaintiff that arose when the investors purchased allegedly fraudulent securities directly from Inofin. Defendants contended that they were plaintiff's customers because they purchased Inofin securities on the advice of an attorney who, though lacking any formal affiliation with plaintiff, was a business and personal acquaintance of a registered representative of plaintiff. The court held that defendants were not "customers" of plaintiff within the meaning of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration provisions. To compel arbitration here would be to expand the scope of the arbitration agreement beyond what the text permitted and the parties intended. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Raymond James Financial Services v. Cary" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, prospective luxury home buyers, alleged that Toll Brothers, a real estate development company, unlawfully refused to return deposits when plaintiffs could not obtain mortgage financing. The district court denied Toll Brothers' motion to dismiss or stay the suit pending arbitration, finding that the Agreement of Sale's arbitration provision lacked mutuality of consideration under Maryland law because it required only the buyer - but not the seller - to submit disputes to arbitration. The court held that the appeal was properly before it under 9 U.S.C. 16(a), and that the Agreement of Sale's arbitration provision was unenforceable for lack of mutual consideration under Maryland law. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Noohi v. Toll Bros., Inc." on Justia Law

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Morgan Keegan filed an action seeking to enjoin arbitration proceedings on the ground that under the controlling FINRA Rule, defendants were not "customers" of Morgan Keegan entitled to compel arbitration of their dispute. In their FINRA arbitration claim, defendants asserted that Morgan Keegan engaged in misconduct relating to the valuation and marketing of certain bond funds purchased by defendants through their brokerage firm. At issue on appeal was whether the district court erred in holding that Morgan Keegan was not subject to FINRA arbitration. The court affirmed the district court's judgment because defendants were not "customers" of Morgan Keegan, within the meaning of the disputed FINRA Rule 12200, and, therefore, were not entitled to invoke the mandatory arbitration provision contained in that rule. View "Morgan Keegan & Co., Inc. v. Silverman" on Justia Law

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Carilion initiated an arbitration proceeding against UBS and Citi under the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) Rule 12200, which required FINRA members to arbitrate disputes with a customer at the customer's request. UBS and Citi commenced this action to enjoin the arbitration proceedings, contending that Carilion was not a "customer" as that term was used in FINRA Rule 12200 and that, in any event, Carilion waived any right to arbitrate by agreeing to the forum selection clause contained in written agreements with UBS and Citi. The court concluded that Carilion, by purchasing UBS and Citi's services, was indeed a "customer" entitled to arbitration under FINRA Rule 12200 and that the forum selection clause did not have the effect of superseding or waiving Carilion's right to arbitrate. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of UBS and Citi's motion for injunctive relief. View "UBS Financial Services, Inc. v. Carilion Clinic" on Justia Law

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This case arose when plaintiff filed a putative class action in state court against Santander alleging violations of various Maryland consumer protection laws for undisclosed finance charges and other unfair business practices. Santander subsequently appealed from the district court's order denying its motion to compel arbitration and stay court proceedings of plaintiff's claims against it. While finding that an enforceable arbitration agreement encompassing plaintiff's claims existed, the district court nevertheless concluded that Santander had waived its rights to enforce arbitration by its delay. The court concluded that the record did not support the district court's finding of waiver. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded with directions to defer the claims to arbitration. View "Rota-McLarty v. Santander Consumer USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Fourth Circuit concerned commercial arbitration of insurance disputes in foreign tribunals. Appellant-Cross-Appellee ESAB Group, Inc. contended that South Carolina law "reverse preempts" federal law (namely, a treaty and its implementing legislation) pursuant to the McCarran-Ferguson Act. ESAB Group faced numerous products liability suits arising from alleged personal injuries caused by exposure to welding consumables manufactured by ESAB Group or its predecessors. These suits presently were proceeding in numerous state and federal courts in the United States. ESAB Group requested that its insurers defend and indemnify it in these suits. Several, including Zurich Insurance, PLC (ZIP), refused coverage. As a result, ESAB Group brought suit against its insurers in South Carolina state court. The district court then found that ZIP had the requisite minimum contacts with the forum to permit the exercise of personal jurisdiction and that the exercise of jurisdiction over ZIP was otherwise reasonable. Because it had referred to arbitration all claims providing a basis for subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining claims. ESAB Group timely appealed the district court's exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction. ZIP filed a cross-appeal, challenging the district court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction and its authority to remand the nonarbitrable claims to state court. Upon review, the Fourth Circuit affirmed as to the district court’s exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction, and found no error in the district court's order compelling arbitration. Likewise, the Court rejected ZIP's arguments that the district court erred in exercising personal jurisdiction over it and in remanding nonarbitrable claims to state court. View "ESAB Group, Incorporated v. Zurich Insurance PLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellees Wheeling Hospital and Belmont Hospital along with other medical providers, filed this putative class action in West Virginia state court against the Ohio Valley Health Services and Education Corporation, Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital, (collectively, the "OV Health System Parties"), and Appellant The Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, Inc. The plaintiffs sued in order to collect amounts allegedly owed to them by employee benefit plans established by the OV Health System Parties, for which The Health Plan acted as administrator. After pretrial activity, The Health Plan moved to dismiss the claims brought against it by the hospital plaintiffs pursuant to an arbitration agreement between the parties. The district court denied this motion, holding that The Health Plan had defaulted on its right to arbitrate. The Health Plan appealed. Upon review, the Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court erred in its determination that The Health Plan defaulted on its right to arbitrate. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s denial of The Health Plan’s motion to dismiss. View "Wheeling Hospital, Inc. v. Health Plan of the Upper Ohio Valley, Inc. " on Justia Law