Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Poublon v. C.H. Robinson Co.
Plaintiff filed a class action against C.H. Robinson, alleging misclassification claims regarding overtime pay requirements. On appeal, C.H. Robinson challenged the district court's denial of its motion to compel arbitration. The court rejected plaintiff's argument that the Incentive Bonus Agreement at issue was procedurally and substantively unconscionable. In regards to procedural unconscionability, the court concluded that, under California law, the degree of procedural unconscionability of such an adhesion agreement is low. In regard to substantive unconscionability, the court concluded that any argument that the judicial carve-out was not substantively unconscionable has been waived; the waiver of representative claims was not substantively unconscionable where the unenforceability of the waiver of a Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), Cal. Labor Code 2698-2699.5, representative action does not make this provision substantively unconscionable; and the venue provision, confidentiality provision, sanctions provision, unilateral modification provision, and discovery limitations are not substantively unconscionable. Therefore, the court concluded that the dispute resolution provision is valid and enforceable once the judicial carve-out clause is extirpated and the waiver of representative claims is limited to non-PAGA claims, and the district court erred in holding otherwise. The court reversed and remanded. View "Poublon v. C.H. Robinson Co." on Justia Law
Norcia v. Samsung Telecommunications
Plaintiff filed a class action against Samsung, alleging that it made misrepresentations as to the performance of the Galaxy S4 phone. The district court denied Samsung's motion to compel arbitration based on an arbitration provision contained in a warranty brochure included in the Galaxy S4 box. Determining that its analysis is governed by California contract, rather than warranty, law, the court concluded plaintiff did not assent to any agreement in the brochure, nor did he sign or otherwise act in a manner that showed he accepted the arbitration agreement. The court concluded that Samsung failed to demonstrate the applicability of any exception to the general California rule that an offeree’s silence does not constitute consent. Therefore, in the absence of an applicable exception, California’s general rule for contract formation applies. The court also concluded that, under the circumstances of this case, Samsung's inclusion of a brochure in the Galaxy S4 box, and plaintiff's failure to opt out, does not make the arbitration provision enforceable against plaintiff. Finally, the court concluded that Samsung's argument that plaintiff agreed to arbitrate his claims by signing the Customer Agreement with Verizon Wireless is meritless. The court explained that Samsung is not a signatory to the Customer Agreement between Verizon Wireless and its customer. Furthermore, Samsung is not a third-party beneficiary to the Customer Agreement. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Norcia v. Samsung Telecommunications" on Justia Law
Kum Tat Limited v. Linden Ox Pasture, LLC
In connection with an attempted purchase of a California residence, Kum Tat filed a motion to compel arbitration of a claim against Linden Ox. The district court denied the motion and Kum Tat filed this interlocutory appeal. The court held that the order denying the motion to compel arbitration was not an order from which section 16(a)(1) of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1), permits an interlocutory appeal. In this case, Kum Tat's motion was neither under section 3 nor 4 of the FAA, and the motion expressly urged application only of California arbitration law and contained no citation to the FAA. Significantly, Kum Tat later emphasized that the motion was not made under the FAA. In the alternative, the court concluded that the district court's order was not clearly erroneous and did not warrant mandamus relief. Here, the district court did not clearly err in reserving for itself the question whether the parties agreed to arbitrate, nor did the district court clearly err in concluding the parties did not form a contract. Accordingly, the court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Kum Tat Limited v. Linden Ox Pasture, LLC" on Justia Law
Move, Inc. v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.
Move commenced arbitration proceedings alleging that Citigroup mismanaged $131 million of Move’s funds by investing in speculative auction rate securities. FINRA provided the parties with a list of thirty proposed arbitrators and their employment histories, including ten proposed arbitrators from FINRA’s chairperson roster. Move ranked “James H. Frank” first who, according to the FINRA Arbitrator Disclosure Report (ADR), received a law degree from Southwestern University in 1975 and was licensed to practice law in California, New York, and Florida. Mr. Frank subsequently served as the chairperson of the panel along with Arthur T. Berggren, a licensed attorney, and Daniel R. Brush, a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner. After Move subsequently discovered that Mr. Frank lied about his qualifications, Move filed a complaint arguing that vacatur was warranted because of Mr. Frank's misrepresentations. On appeal, Move challenges the district court's dismissal of its action and denial of its motion to vacate the arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq. The court held that Move’s motion was not untimely because the FAA is subject to equitable tolling. The court also held that Move’s right to a fundamentally fair hearing was prejudiced by the fraudulent misrepresentations of the arbitration panel’s chairperson, resulting in proceedings led by an arbitrator who should have been disqualified from the dispute under the rules and regulations of FINRA. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Move, Inc. v. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc." on Justia Law
Ziober v. BLB Resources
Plaintiff filed suit against his employer, alleging violations of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301-4334. Plaintiff claimed that he was fired from his job after providing notice of his deployment to Afghanistan in the United States Navy Reserve. The court joined its sister circuits and held that the plain text of USERRA does not preclude the compelled arbitration of disputes arising under its provisions. Furthermore, plaintiff has failed to establish that the legislative history evinces Congress’s intent to prevent the enforcement of the arbitration agreement he signed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration and dismissing the complaint. View "Ziober v. BLB Resources" on Justia Law
Mohamed v. Uber Technologies
Plaintiffs Mohamed and Gillette, former Uber drivers, filed suit alleging on behalf of themselves and a proposed class of other drivers that Uber violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq., and various state statutes. Gillette has also brought a representative claim against Uber under California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) alleging that he was misclassified as an independent contractor rather than an employee. The district court denied Uber’s motion to compel arbitration of the claims. The court concluded that the district court improperly assumed the authority to decide whether the arbitration agreements were enforceable. The question of arbitrability as to all but Gillette’s PAGA claims was delegated to the arbitrator. Under the terms of the agreement Gillette signed, the PAGA waiver should be severed from the arbitration agreement and Gillette’s PAGA claims may proceed in court on a representative basis. All of plaintiffs’ remaining arguments, including both Mohamed’s challenge to the PAGA waiver in the agreement he signed and the challenge by both plaintiffs to the validity of the arbitration agreement itself, are subject to resolution via arbitration. Finally, the court affirmed the district court’s order denying Hirease’s joinder in the motion to compel. View "Mohamed v. Uber Technologies" on Justia Law
Tompkins v. 23andMe, Inc.
Multiple plaintiffs filed different class actions against 23andMe relating to the company’s health claims. 23andMe, a direct-to-consumer provider of genetic testing service, claimed that its service could be used to help customers manage health risks, as well as prevent or mitigate diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer. The district court granted 23andMe's motion to compel all plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims. After reviewing the mandatory arbitration provision in the Terms of Service, the district court concluded that the arbitration provision at issue was enforceable. The court concluded that under principles established by recent California Supreme Court decisions, California’s common law rule of unconscionability does not provide a basis to revoke the arbitration agreement in the Terms of Service. In this case, the court concluded that plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of demonstrating the substantive unconscionability of the bilateral prevailing party clause; that the forum selection clause is unconscionable; that the intellectual property exemption is unconscionable under current California law; and that the unilateral modification provision renders the arbitration clause, set forth in a separate provision, unconscionable. Therefore, the arbitration agreement is valid, irrevocable, and enforceable. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Tompkins v. 23andMe, Inc." on Justia Law
In re Swift Transportation
In this companion case to Van Dusen v. Swift, No. 15-15257 (“Van Dusen III”), Swift seeks a writ of mandamus ordering the district court to vacate its case management order and decide the petition to compel arbitration without discovery or trial. The court concluded that the Bauman factors weigh against the grant of mandamus relief; Swift has a remedy in urging its position before the district court in dispositive motions and, if the district court is adverse to Swift, in the form of direct appeal following the issuance of a final order; normal litigation expense does not constitute sufficient prejudice to warrant relief, and the discovery cost has already been incurred; and most crucially, in the absence of controlling precedent, the district court order was not clearly erroneous. Accordingly, the court concluded that Swift is not entitled to the extraordinary relief of the issuance of a writ of mandamus. View "In re Swift Transportation" on Justia Law
Van Dusen v. Swift Transportation
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Swift misclassified her and others as independent contractors, as well as alleging violations of federal and state labor laws. On appeal, plaintiff objected that section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1, prevented the district court from compelling arbitration. The district court granted Swift's motion to compel arbitration. The court clarified that the district court - not the arbitrator - must decide the section 1 issue. The district court then set out to determine the section 1 exemption issue. Swift moved for an order to stay proceedings, including discovery, and for an order setting a briefing schedule to determine the section 1 issue without resort to discovery and trial. The district court denied Swift’s motion. It also concluded that the order was not immediately appealable. The court concluded that that, absent statutory authorization, district court certification, or application of the collateral doctrine, the court lacked appellate jurisdiction over the appeal and dismissed. In this case, this is not an appeal from a motion explicitly brought under the FAA or unmistakably invoking its remedies. Because the district court did not deny a petition to order arbitration to proceed, there is no jurisdiction under section 16(a)(1)(B). View "Van Dusen v. Swift Transportation" on Justia Law
Martin v. Yasuda
Plaintiffs, individuals who enrolled in a cosmetology program at Milan Institute, filed a class action against the college and its President, alleging that defendants violated state labor laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. On appeal, defendants challenged the district court's denial of their motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the district court did not err in deciding the litigation conduct waiver issue itself. If the parties intend that an arbitrator decide that issue under a particular contract, they must place clear and unmistakable language to that effect in the agreement. Defendants failed to do so in this case and thus the district court did not err by deciding the conduct waiver issue. The court also concluded that defendants waived their right to arbitration because they engaged in acts inconsistent with their right to arbitration, and plaintiffs were prejudiced. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Martin v. Yasuda" on Justia Law