Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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In this case alleging several violations of federal and state discrimination laws the First Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to stay the proceedings in district court and compel arbitration, holding that the contract to arbitration in between the parties was unenforceable. Plaintiffs - several individuals and the National Federation of the Blind - filed a complaint alleging that Defendant - the Container Store, Inc. - failed to utilize tactile keypads on its point-of-sale devices in its stores that could independently be used by customers who are blind in violation of federal and state discrimination laws. Defendant moved to compel arbitration, citing an arbitration provision in the terms and conditions of a loyalty program of which the individual plaintiffs were members. The district court denied the motion. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) based upon the lack of evidence that the in-store plaintiffs had any knowledge that arbitration terms applied to their enrollment in the loyalty program, Defendant failed to establish that an agreement to arbitrate was consummated between it and three of the four individual plaintiffs; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the loyalty program agreement was illusory and therefore void. View "National Federation of the Blind v. Container Store, Inc." on Justia Law

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The district court erred in granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss, based on an arbitration provision, Plaintiff’s claims that Defendant violated various articles of the Puerto Rico Civil Code and federal copyright and trademark laws. This suit stemmed from a songwriting contest held in Puerto Rico in 2014. As a contestant, Plaintiff agreed to the terms of the contest’s rules, which included an arbitration provision. The provision compelled the submission to arbitration of those claims that “aris[e] in connection with, touch upon or relat[e] to” those rules. The district court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) based on that arbitration provision. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitration provision did not reveal that the parties to it intended for Defendant, a third party, to benefit from it with the requisite clarity. View "Cortes-Ramos v. Martin-Morales" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of Uber Technologies, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action brought by users of Uber’s ride-sharing service in the Boston area, concluding that Uber’s mandatory arbitration clause found in an online contract was unenforceable. In their complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Uber violated a Massachusetts consumer-protection statute by knowingly imposing fictitious or inflated fees. Uber moved to compel arbitration based on its terms and conditions (the agreement), which contained an arbitration clause and was available to Uber App users during the registration process. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the case. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs were not reasonably notified of the terms of the agreement and consequently did not provide their unambiguous assent to those terms; and (2) therefore, Uber failed to carry its burden on its motion to compel arbitration. View "Cullinane v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration in connection with this case brought by Plaintiff alleging various wage-and-hour claims. Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration was based on an agreement between Defendant and a vendor affiliated with Defendant from whom Plaintiff received his compensation. The district court concluded that Plaintiff should not be compelled to arbitrate because he never signed the agreement containing the arbitration clause and had no idea that the agreement even existed. Defendant appealed, arguing that Plaintiff should be compelled to arbitrate under federal common law principles of contract and agency. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that Defendant’s arguments on appeal were without merit. View "Ouadani v. TF Final Mile LLC" on Justia Law

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A final determination of liability but not damages in arbitration can satisfy the final requirement of Article V(1)(e) of the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards when the parties have agreed to submit the issue of liability to the arbitrator for a distinct determination prior to a separate proceeding to assess damages. At issue in this appeal was the district court’s judicial recognition of an English arbitrator’s determination of joint contract liability against the seller and the renovator of a building. The parties agreed to bifurcate litigation of the liability and damages issues. Accordingly, the district court treated the liability judgment, which was decided before the damages issues, as final and thus entitled to judicial recognition. Specifically, the district court held the contractor for the renovation work bound as a party to the agreement providing for arbitration of disputes. The renovator and contractor appealed, claiming that the arbitrator’s judgment of liability in the bifurcated arbitration proceeding lacked the finality required for judicial confirmation of a foreign arbitral award under 9 U.S.C. 207. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitrator’s liability judgment was final in this instance and that the contractor could indeed be subjected to arbitration. View "University of Notre Dame (USA) in England v. TJAC Waterloo, LLC" on Justia Law