Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

by
The plaintiff, who arbitrated a claim that arose under a federal statute, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (known as the Stored Communications Act), 18 U.S.C. 2701, sought to vacate or modify the arbitration award. The plaintiff filed a motion in the district court; for jurisdiction, he invoked 28 U.S.C. 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and 1332 (diversity jurisdiction). The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 10-11, which provides for the enforceability of arbitration agreements and specifies procedures for conducting arbitrations and enforcing arbitration awards, does not provide an independent jurisdictional basis for disputes under the Act. The Fourth Circuit vacated the dismissal of the action, stating that the better approach for determining subject-matter jurisdiction over section 10 and 11 motions is to look to the nature of the underlying claim in dispute, as is done with respect to section 4 petitions to compel arbitration. If the underlying claim is one that otherwise could be litigated in federal court, the motion can likewise be resolved in federal court. The district court had federal-question jurisdiction because the plaintiff’s underlying claim arose under federal law. View "McCormick v. America Online, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting Norfolk Southern's motion to confirm an arbitration award. The court held that the award was not mutual, final, and definite as required by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In this case, the district court erred in finding that the Majority Decision was a final arbitration award where the third appraiser reserved the right to withdraw his assent if his assumptions proved to be incorrect. The court noted that the district court did not err in confirming the Majority Opinion because of an ambiguity rendering it unenforceable and the third appraiser did not base his decision on an improper reason. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Sprint Communications Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting Norfolk Southern's motion to confirm an arbitration award. The court held that the award was not mutual, final, and definite as required by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). In this case, the district court erred in finding that the Majority Decision was a final arbitration award where the third appraiser reserved the right to withdraw his assent if his assumptions proved to be incorrect. The court noted that the district court did not err in confirming the Majority Opinion because of an ambiguity rendering it unenforceable and the third appraiser did not base his decision on an improper reason. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Sprint Communications Co." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Crazy Horse's motion to compel arbitration. In this case, Crazy Horse pursued a merits-based litigation strategy for three years and actively sought to obtain a favorable legal judgment. The court held that Crazy Horse's conduct was at odds with the Federal Arbitration Act's, 9 U.S.C. 1-16, goal of facilitating the expeditious settlement of disputes. The court explained that Crazy Horse did not seek to use arbitration as an efficient alternative to litigation. Rather, Crazy Horse used arbitration as an insurance policy in an attempt to give itself a second opportunity to evade liability. View "Degidio v. Crazy Horse Saloon and Restaurant" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff Simply Wireless, Inc. appealed a district court order dismissing its complaint against Defendants T-Mobile US, Inc. and T-Mobile USA, Inc. (collectively, “T-Mobile”). Upon determining that the parties’ business relationship was governed by a written agreement containing a mandatory arbitration clause, the district court went on to determine that the scope of that arbitration clause included all of Simply Wireless’s claims against T-Mobile. After review, the Fourth Circuit concluded the district court erred in determining the scope of the parties’ arbitration clause, as the parties "clearly and unmistakably" intended for an arbitrator to resolve all arbitrability disputes. Nonetheless, because the parties intended for an arbitrator to resolve all arbitrability disputes, the district court’s ultimate dismissal of Simply Wireless’s complaint in favor of arbitration was proper. Accordingly, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal, but on alternate grounds. View "Simply Wireless, Inc. v. T-Mobile US, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The Fourth Circuit held that the district court correctly denied Applied Underwriters' motion to compel arbitration in a suit alleging that Applied Underwriters engaged in the business of insurance in Virginia without complying with Virginia insurance and workers' compensation laws. However, the court held that the district court reversibly erred in applying the doctrine of judicial estoppel to hold that the agreement between Applied Underwriters and plaintiff constituted an insurance contract for purposes of Virginia law. Therefore, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Minnieland Private Day School v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co." on Justia Law