Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendant on Plaintiff's challenge to an arbitration award in favor of Defendant, holding that the district court did not err.After Plaintiff was summarily dismissed from his employment he challenged his dismissal by filing a complaint and submitting the grievance to arbitration pursuant to his union's collective bargaining agreement with the union. The arbitrator issued an arbitral award dismissing Plaintiff's complaint. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's petition for judicial review. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the arbitrator's ruling was not in manifest disregard of the law. View "Torres-Burgos v. Crowley Liner Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court refusing to enforce arbitration clauses in the employment agreement between New York Life Insurance Company and Ketler Bosse, which expressly required that any disputes about arbitrability be referred to the arbitrator, holding that the district court abused its discretion.After New York Life terminated its business relationship with him Bosse brought this action alleging race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1985 and other state law claims. New York Life asked the court to compel arbitration and stay or dismiss the lawsuit, but the district court refused. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the district court's analysis contravened the Supreme Court's holdings in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., 139 S. Ct. 524 (2019), First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938 (1995) and other cases; and (2) the arbitration clause was clear, unmistakable, and unambiguous and should have been enforced on those terms. View "Bosse v. New York Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Handy Technologies, Inc.'s motion to dismiss this putative class action and to compel individual arbitration, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing Maisha Emmanuel's suit.Emmanuel, who worked as a cleaner for Handy Technologies, Inc., brought this complaint on behalf of individuals who had worked for Handy as cleaners, alleging that Handy had misclassified the putative class members as independent contractors rather than employees, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 1. Handy moved to dismiss and compel arbitration, arguing that the Independent Contractor Agreement that Emmanuel signed required arbitration of the claims at issue. The district court granted Handy's motion to compel arbitration and dismissed Emmanuel's putative class action claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in ruling that, under Massachusetts law, Emmanuel had entered into an agreement to arbitrate; and (2) Emmanuel's unconscionability-based challenged to the ruling below failed. View "Emmanuel v. Handy Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this action brought under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), 45 U.S.C. 151 et seq., the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claim against American Airlines, Inc. and later granting Allied Pilots Association's (APA) motion for summary judgment, holding that that APA did not breach its duty of fair representation and that Plaintiff could not maintain a claim against American Airlines.In 1999, Bryan's then-union submitted a grievance on his behalf alleging that his then-employer violated the terms of the applicable collective bargaining agreement and that APA, the successor to the previous union, breached its duty of fair representation under the RLA by withdrawing from pursuing his grievance to arbitration based on an allegedly inadequate investigation into the grievance's merits. Bryan also suit American Airlines, the successor to his previous employer, for his previous employer's alleged breach of the collective bargaining agreement. The district court disposed of the claims through dismissal and summary judgment. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) APA did not breach its duty of fair representation under the RLA; and (2) based on Bryan's own concession, he could not maintain a claim against American Airlines. View "Bryan v. American Airlines, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the judgment of the district court vacating a portion of an arbitration award that voided the guaranty agreement at issue in this case, holding that, contrary to the conclusion of the district court, the arbitrator acted within the scope of his powers.Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) contracted with KCST USA, Inc. to operate and market a fiber optic network in western Massachusetts. MTC also secured a guaranty of KCST's obligations under the contract from KCST's parent company, Axia NetMedia Corporation. Axia later sued MTC over the guaranty agreement. MTC sought an order compelling arbitration, which the district court granted. The arbitrator found that MTC had materially breached the agreement with KCST, and, therefore, that the guaranty agreement was void for failure of consideration. The district court concluded that the arbitrator had exceeded the scope of his powers and vacated the award. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed the scope of his powers under section 10(a)(4) of the Federal Arbitration Act. View "Axia NetMedia Corp. v. Massachusetts Technology Park Corp." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Appellants' motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) exemption for "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" encompasses the contracts of transportation workers who transport goods or people within the flow of interstate commerce.Plaintiff was a delivery driver for Amazon.com, Inc. and its subsidiary, Amazon Logistics, Inc. (collectively, Amazon) who collected packages for delivery in Massachusetts and did not cross state lines during the course of his deliveries. Plaintiff filed this putative class action asserting misclassification of Amazon's drivers contracted with through its smartphone application as independent contractors and violations of Massachusetts labor laws. Amazon moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the mandatory arbitration provision of Plaintiff's employment agreement with Amazon. The district court denied the motion in part, concluding that Plaintiff's agreement was exempt from the FAA and that the provision was unenforceable based on Massachusetts public policy. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the FAA does not govern the enforceability of the dispute resolution section of the agreement; and (2) the district court rightly refused to compel arbitration pursuant to state law. View "Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit vacated the decision of the district court granting the World Boxing Organization's (WBO) motion to compel arbitration of Austin Trout's claim under the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (MABRA), 15 U.S.C. 6309(d), and claims under Puerto Rico law for breach of contract, fraud, and negligence, holding that the arbitrator-selection provision set forth in the WBO Appeal Regulations is invalid.Trout, a professional boxer residing in New Mexico, sued the WBO, which is based in Puerto Rico, challenging the WBO's decision to remove him from its rankings for a certain weight class. The WBO moved to compel arbitration pursuant to a clause in the WBO Championship Regulations and the Federal Arbitration Act. The district court granted the motion and dismissed the claims without prejudice. The First Circuit vacated the district court's decision, holding (1) the arbitrator-selection provision that the Appeal Regulations sets forth, which grants the WBO exclusive control over the appointment of the arbitrators who will decide Trout's claims, is so unreasonable and unjust as to be unconscionable under Puerto Rico contract law; and (2) the case is remanded for the district court to determine whether the arbitrator-selection provision is severable from the remainder of the arbitration agreement. View "Trout v. Organizacion Mundial de Boxeo, Inc." on Justia Law

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The First Circuit reversed the order of the district court denying arbitration in this negligence case, holding that an arbitration clause in a residency agreement between an assisted living facility and its resident remained in effect and bound Plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims.Plaintiffs, Joan McKenna and her daughter, Kara Biller, brought this lawsuit against Defendant, McKenna's former assisted live-in facility, alleging several claims for Defendant's alleged failure to administer thyroid medication to McKenna while she was a resident. Defendant sought to have the case sent to arbitration, relying on an arbitration clause in McKenna's residency agreement. The district court denied the motion to compel arbitration, concluding that the arbitration agreement had expired. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) to successfully argue that the arbitration agreement terminated and no longer governed their claims, Plaintiffs had to mount an independent challenge to the arbitration agreement itself, which they failed to do; (2) Plaintiffs' other arguments backing their reasons to affirm the denial of the motion to compel arbitration were unavailing; and (3) therefore, the Federal Arbitration Act required the district court to send this case to arbitration. View "Biller v. S-H OPCO Greenwich Bay Manor" on Justia Law

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In this case concerning arbitration agreements, nursing homes, and wrongful death claims under Massachusetts law, the First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court compelling arbitration after first certifying two questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), holding that the SJC's decision compelled the First Circuit to affirmed the judgment compelling arbitration.The personal representative of a deceased former nursing home resident brought a state wrongful death action against a set of organizations that oversaw the nursing home (collectively, nursing home). The nursing home sued to compel arbitration. The federal court compelled arbitration. On appeal, the personal representative argued that she was not bound by the decedent’s agreement to arbitrate with the nursing home because her wrongful death right of recovery was independent of the decedent’s wrongful death claim. The First Circuit certified questions of law to the SJC. After the SJC answered that claims of statutory beneficiaries under the state's wrongful death statute are derivative of the decedent's own cause of action, the First Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the SJC's decision required this Court to affirm the judgment compelling arbitration. View "GGNSC Chestnut Hill LLC v. Schrader" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court confirming a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitral award denying certain claims against Concorde Investment Services, LLC, holding that the arbitrator's conclusion was reasonable in light of the claims made and the evidence presented.Appellant's claims against Concorde were for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, violations of FINRA sustainability rules and regulations against deceptive securities practices, and failure to properly supervise. Appellant's claims against Concorde were denied. Appellant filed a motion to vacate in part and confirm in part the award, and Concorde filed a motion to confirm the award. The district court denied the motion to vacate and granted the motion to confirm. The First Circuit affirmed, holding that the arbitrators did not engage in a manifest disregard of the law and that none of the statutory bases for vacating the awards set forth in the Federal Arbitration Act were met. View "Ebbe v. Concorde Investment Services, LLC" on Justia Law