Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
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The Federal Arbitration Act expresses a strong policy in favor of arbitration. Based on that, the Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit have consistently held that contractual provisions capable of being reasonably read to call for arbitration should be construed in favor of arbitration. The Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of PwC's motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff's Title VII claims. Following precedent, the court construed the arbitration provision in the employment agreement between the parties to require arbitration of plaintiff's Title VII claims, and the arbitration provision was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to compel arbitration. View "Ashford v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP" on Justia Law

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Seeking evidence to use in a United Kingdom arbitration, Servotronics filed an application in the district court under 28 U.S.C. 1782 to obtain testimony from three Boeing employees residing in South Carolina. On appeal, Servotronics contends that the district court erred in ruling that the UK arbitral panel was not a "foreign tribunal" for purposes of section 1782 and thus it lacked authority to grant Servotronics' application to obtain testimony for use in the UK arbitration. The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the arbitral panel in the United Kingdom is a foreign tribunal for purposes of section 1782. The court explained that the current version of the statute, as amended in 1964, manifests Congress' policy to increase international cooperation by providing U.S. assistance in resolving disputes before not only foreign courts but before all foreign and international tribunals. The court wrote that such a policy was intended to contribute to the orderly resolution of disputes both in the United States and abroad, elevating the importance of the rule of law and encouraging a spirit of comity between foreign countries and the United States. Furthermore, Boeing's argument to the contrary represents too narrow an understanding of arbitration, whether it is conducted in the United Kingdom or the United States. View "Servotronics, Inc. v. The Boeing Co." on Justia Law

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On remand from the district court, the Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's grant of summary judgment to debtor in an action arising from the nonpayment of a promissory note. The court held that the district court did not give proper weight to the evidence before it; the evidence construed most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment, the Foundation, was that debtor waited until after the entry of final judgment to assert an arbitration defense; and neither debtor nor the district court has pointed to a single case in which a party waited until after the entry of final judgment to raise the right to arbitration without defaulting that right. Rather, the court held that, in such circumstances, courts have typically found default of the right to arbitrate, even in cases involving domestic judgments. In this case, given the dueling deposition testimony, the court held that a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether debtor asserted his right to arbitrate during proceedings in the Iraqi trial court. View "Iraq Middle Market Development Foundation v. Mohammad Harmoosh" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of appellants' motion to compel arbitration. The complaint alleged claims that were predicated on a massive insurance contract steering and kickback fraud conspiracy that spanned the period from 2001 to 2016. The court held that the district court failed to resolve -- in the proper manner -- factual disputes regarding whether Berkeley Schools agreed to arbitrate the claims alleged in the complaint. Accordingly, 9 U.S.C. 4 requires that those disputes must be resolved in trial proceedings and thus the court remanded. View "Berkeley County School District v. HUB International Limited" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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