Articles Posted in U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals

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This case arose from an underlying dispute involving three parties related to an alleged breach of an assignment agreement. The three parties disagreed over the appointment of arbitrators to hear their dispute. The agreement to arbitrate seemed designated for a two-party dispute. Notwithstanding that the parties agreed to arbitrate before three arbitrators, the district court ordered the parties to proceed to arbitration before five arbitrators: three party-appointed arbitrators, who would then choose two neutral arbitrators. If the party-appointed arbitrators could not agree, the district court ordered the parties to petition for appointment of the two neutral arbitrators. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court's judgment, holding (1) there was a lapse in the naming of the arbitrators in the parties' agreement; (2) the district court was authorized to exercise appointment power under 9 U.S.C. 5; and (3) the district court erred in deviating from the parties' express agreement to arbitrate before a three-member panel. Remanded. View "BP Exploration Libya Ltd. v. ExxonMobil Libya Ltd." on Justia Law

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DynMcDermott Petroleum Operations Company (DM) subcontracted with Petrofac, Inc. to design and install a plant to serve the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for the Department of Energy. DM and Petrofac agreed to resolve any claim under the subcontract through binding arbitration. Later, Petrofac sent DM a multi-volume Request for Equitable Adjustment (REA), asserting that DM disputed Petrofac's ability to perform its work and seeking damages. An arbitration panel awarded Petrofac damages. The district court affirmed. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court properly confirmed the arbitration panel's arbitration award, as DM failed to demonstrate reversible error on appeal. View "Petrofac, Inc. v. DynMcDermott Petro. Operations Co." on Justia Law

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This case arose when plaintiff filed a putative class action in Texas state court alleging that defendants had violated certain provisions of the Texas Education Code by soliciting students in Texas without the appropriate certifications. Defendants subsequently appealed the district court's confirmation of an arbitral award that required them to submit to class arbitration. They contended that the district court, not the arbitrator, should have decided whether the parties' agreement provided for class arbitration, and that the district court should have vacated the arbitrator's class arbitration award. Because the parties agreed that the arbitrator should decide the class arbitration issue, the court concluded that the district court correctly referred that issue to the arbitrator. The district court erred, however, in confirming the award because the arbitrator exceeded his powers. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Reed v. Florida Metro University, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Conoco appealed the district court's judgment confirming an arbitration award favorable to Rain. Conoco and Rain were parties to a long-term supply agreement, whereby Conoco agreed to sell all green anode coke produced at one of its refineries during a certain time period. The court held that, given the considerable deference afforded arbitration awards, Conoco's argument that the arbitrator exceeded his powers by failing to select only one proposal, which relied on paragraphs stricken from the final award in accordance with the Commercial Rules, must fail. The court also held that vacatur was no appropriate and the award must be enforced where the arbitrator laid out the facts, described the contentions of the parties, and decided which of the two proposals should prevail. View "Rain CII Carbon, L.L.C. v. ConocoPhillips Co." on Justia Law

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Debtor, a former company officer, allegedly attempted to obtain one million dollars by falsely claiming an ownership interest in the company and threatening public exposure of alleged illegal activity. After the debtor lost an arbitration proceeding, he then filed for bankruptcy. At issue was whether the company's attorneys' fees for the arbitration represented a nondischargeable debt under 11 U.S.C. 523(a)(4) or (a)(6). The court reversed and remanded the summary judgment rendered against creditors because the debt may have arisen for willful and malicious injury and may therefore be excepted from discharge by section 523(a)(6). View "Rapid Settlements Ltd, et al. v. Shcolnik" on Justia Law

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In 2005, during plaintiff's employment, defendant issued an employee handbook, including a provision that all employment-related disputes, whether initiated by an employee or by defendant, would be "resolved only by an arbitrator through final and binding arbitration," that disputes under the Fair Labor Standards Act were among those subject to the arbitration policy, that disputes cannot be brought as class actions or in representative capacities, and that the Federal Arbitration Act was its governing authority. Plaintiff signed a receipt that reiterated the arbitration policy. After his employment ended, plaintiff filed a class action, alleging violation of the FLSA by failing to adequately compensate him and other similarly-situated employees for overtime work. The district court denied a motion to stay proceedings and compel arbitration, finding that the provision was illusory because the employer retained the right to terminate or modify the provision at any time. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, noting that under the provision the company could make amendments almost instantaneously. View "Carey v. 24 Hour Fitness USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Crescent appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Volvo where the district court held that the contract between Crescent and Volvo compelled the parties to arbitrate their dispute. The court vacated and remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss where the district court erred in holding that Volvo's request for a declaratory judgment as to the applicability of 15 U.S.C. 1226 was properly before the court. Because the district court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Volvo's declaratory judgment action, the presence of this action in Volvo's complaint before the district court could not alter the court's holding that there was no subject matter jurisdiction to hear Volvo's petition to compel arbitration. View "Volvo Trucks North America v. Crescent Ford Truck Sales Inc." on Justia Law

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This case arose when plaintiff and defendant created a joint venture where plaintiff loaned the joint venture $75,000,000 under a Loan Agreement which contained an arbitration clause. Defendant did not sign the Loan Agreement individually but did sign a third-party guarantee (Limited Guarantee) for the loan on the same day the Loan Agreement was executed. Plaintiff subsequently sued defendant pursuant to the Limited Guarantee and defendant sought arbitration. The district court denied a motion to compel arbitration because defendant was not a party to any Loan Document. Defendant appealed and the district court denied his motion for a stay pending appeal. Defendant appealed the denial of the stay and plaintiff moved for summary affirmance of the denial of the motion to compel. The court held that there was no automatic stay and that under the circumstances of the case, defendant was not entitled to a stay. Therefore, the motion for summary affirmance was carried with the case. View "Weingarten Realty Investors v. Miller" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Cat Tech sought indemnification from its insurers after Cat Tech damaged several components of a hyrotreating reactor owned by Ergon Refining, Inc. and arbitrators entered an award against Cat Tech for the damage. Insurers subsequently denied the claim, contending, inter alia, that the "your work" exclusion found in the policies precluded coverage for damage to the reactor. The district court found that insurers had no duty to indemnify Cat Tech. The court held that the information contained in the arbitration award was insufficient to properly apply the "your work" exclusion. As such, the court concluded that the district court erred when it relied on the award in granting insurer's summary judgment motion. On remand, the district court should conduct any additional fact-finding necessary to determine whether the damage suffered by Ergon's reactor was limited only to those components upon which Cat Tech worked, or instead included other components unrelated to Cat Tech's operations. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "American Home Assurance Co, et al. v. Cat Tech L.L.C." on Justia Law

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The Union, representing certain employees at ExxonMobil's Baton Rouge refinery and chemical plant, brought suit to compel ExxonMobil to arbitrate two labor grievances pursuant to the parties' collective bargaining agreement. The court held that it was within the province of the courts to decide whether "a good faith claim by one party that the other party had violated a written provision" of the bargaining agreement had been asserted. The court also held that, in light of the clairty of the parties' agreement, the Union's claim that ExxonMobil violated Section 1131 of the agreement when the language of that section explicitly authorized its actions was not colorable and could not constitute a good faith claim within the meaning of the arbitration clause. The court agreed with ExxonMobil that Baton Rouge Oil & Chemical Workers Union v. ExxonMobil Corp foreclosed reliance on Section 1151 of the agreement as an independent basis for the arbitrability of the contracting-out grievance. The court further held that for the same reasons that the court held that the contracting-out grievance was not arbitrable under Section 1151, Section 1151 could not serve as a basis for requiring arbitration of the post-reduction claim. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of the Union's motion for summary judgment with regard to the contracting-out grievance, affirmed the district court's denial of the Union's motion for summary judgment with regard to the post-reduction grievance, and reversed the district court's denial of ExxonMobil's motion for summary judgment. View "Paper, Allied-Industrial Chemical and Energy Workers Int'l Union v. Exxon Mobil Corp." on Justia Law