Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order on a motion to compel arbitration of a grievance in which the union asserted that the Hospital placed certain types of patients with nurses who did not have the appropriate training for those patients and that the Hospital was violating nurse-to-patient ratios established by state law. At issue in this appeal is whether the arbitrability of an issue is itself arbitrable, where the relevant agreement includes a broad arbitration clause but is otherwise silent on the question.In First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938 (1995), the Supreme Court established that a court, not the arbitrator, must make the determination whether the arbitrability of an issue is itself arbitrable when the relevant agreement is silent on that question. In United Bhd. Of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., Local No. 1780 v. Desert Palace, Inc., 94 F.3d 1308 (9th Cir. 1996), this court stated that labor cases are different, and in those cases, an arbitrator should decide arbitrability as long as the agreement includes a broad arbitration clause.The panel held that the rationale in Desert Palace is clearly irreconcilable with the reasoning or theory of intervening higher authority in Granite Rock Co. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 561 U.S. 287, 300–01 (2010), where the Supreme Court expressly rejected the notion that labor arbitration disputes should be analyzed differently than commercial arbitration disputes. Therefore, the panel was not bound by Desert Palace and remanded to the district court to consider whether the union's grievance is arbitrable. View "SEIU Local 121RN v. Los Robles Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a putative class action against CSSU in favor of arbitration. After plaintiff filed suit alleging that he was owed deferred compensation, CSSU moved to dismiss based on an arbitration clause and general class waiver set forth in an Employee Dispute Resolution Program.The panel rejected plaintiff's argument that FINRA Rule 13204(a)(4) invalidates the Program's class waiver. Because the class waiver survives, the panel held that plaintiff relinquished his right to bring class claims in any forum, and because he is left with only individual claims, Rule 13204(a)(4)'s prohibition on enforcing arbitration agreements directed at putative or certified class claims has no application here. Therefore, the panel held that the district court correctly ordered the parties to arbitrate plaintiff's remaining individual claims, and aligned itself with the Second Circuit's decision in Cohen v. UBS Fin. Servs., Inc., 799 F.3d 174 (2d Cir. 2015). View "Laver v. Credit Suisse Securities (USA), LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling individual arbitration and dismissing a putative class action alleging violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and Arizona law. Pursuant to agreements entered into by the parties, Artex and Tribeca formed and managed captive insurance companies that plaintiffs owned, and to which plaintiffs paid insurance premiums. Plaintiffs claimed the payments as tax-deductible business expenses without recognizing them as taxable income. After the IRS audited plaintiffs, it issued delinquency notices and sought to impose penalties. Plaintiffs settled with the IRS and then brought this putative class action against defendants.First, the panel held that the agreements are not unenforceable on the grounds that plaintiffs raise. Addressing an issue of first impression concerning the survival of arbitration obligations following contract termination, the panel held that the agreements do not expressly negate the presumption in favor of post-termination arbitration or clearly imply that the parties did not intend for their arbitration obligations to survive termination. Second, the panel held that the Arbitration Clause encompasses all plaintiffs' claims. Third, the panel joined seven of its sister circuits in holding that the availability of class arbitration is a gateway issue that a court must presumptively decide. In this case, the agreements do not clearly and unmistakably delegate that issue to the arbitrator. Because the agreements are silent on class arbitration, the panel held that they do not permit class arbitration. Finally, the panel held that all non-signatory defendants may compel arbitration pursuant to the agreements. View "Shivkov v. Artex Risk Solutions, Inc." on Justia Law

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Uber’s smartphone application connects riders needing transportation with available local drivers. Rideshare fares are charged automatically via the Uber App, with Uber withholding a percentage as a “service fee.” Grice, an Alabama Uber driver, has used the Uber App since 2016 to provide rideshare services to and from Huntsville International Airport and Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. Uber had agreements with these airports to allow Uber drivers to pick up arriving passengers. Grice, in the course of his work, never crosses state lines. Grice filed a putative class action lawsuit, alleging that Uber failed to safeguard drivers’ and riders’ personal information and mishandled a data security breach in which that information was stolen by online hackers. Uber moved to compel arbitration, citing the Technology Services Agreement that Grice and other drivers signed, requiring arbitration of “any disputes . . . arising out of or related to [the driver’s] relationship” with Uber and prohibiting arbitration “on a class, collective action, or representative basis.” Grice responded that he drives passengers who are engaged in interstate travel to and from airports and qualified for the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1 exemption for workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.The district court compelled arbitration. The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking to vacate the order The district court’s decision was not clearly erroneous as a matter of law, as required for granting a writ of mandamus. View "Grice v. United States District Court for the Central District of California" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying in part Uber's motion to compel arbitration of claims brought by plaintiffs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plaintiff alleged that Uber failed to provide a wheelchair-accessible ride-sharing option (uberWAV) in their hometown of New Orleans.The panel held that plaintiffs plausibly alleged sufficient facts to establish Article III standing where they sufficiently alleged an injury in fact under the "deterrent effect doctrine." The doctrine recognizes that when a plaintiff who is disabled within the meaning of the ADA has actual knowledge of illegal barriers at a public accommodation to which he or she desires access, that plaintiff need not engage in the futile gesture of attempting to gain access in order to show actual injury. In this case, plaintiffs have alleged that they are aware that Uber does not offer uberWAV in New Orleans; that they cannot use the Uber App because of its failure to offer uberWAV; that they plan to use the Uber App if it becomes wheelchair-accessible; and that they presently fear that they will encounter the mobility-related barriers which exist within Uber's Application and services. The panel also held that plaintiffs have plausibly alleged causation and redressability where plaintiffs' alleged injuries would not exist absent Uber's actions, and these injuries cannot be redressed without enjoining Uber to comply with the ADA. Finally, the panel held that equitable estoppel does not apply where plaintiffs' ADA claims are fully viable without any reference to Uber's Terms and Conditions. View "Namisnak v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Amazon's motion to compel arbitration of one of the named plaintiff's federal and state wage and hour claims. This plaintiff, unlike the other three named plaintiffs, agreed to all of Amazon's Terms of Service (TOS) when he signed up to work as a delivery provider for Amazon's app-based delivery program, Amazon Flex (AmFlex), including the arbitration provision at issue here.The panel held that AmFlex delivery providers in this case are transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce and are thus exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act's enforcement provisions pursuant to 9 U.S.C. 1 where they made "last mile" deliveries of goods in the stream of interstate commerce. The panel explained that the interstate transactions between Amazon and the customer do not conclude until the packages reach their intended destinations, and thus AmFlex drivers are engaged in the movement of interstate commerce, even if they did not themselves need to cross state lines. The panel noted that cases involving delivery services like Postmates or Doordash are distinguishable, because those cases recognize that local food delivery drivers are not "engaged in the interstate transport of goods" where the prepared meals from local restaurants are not a type of good that are "indisputably part of the stream of commerce." In this case, AmFlex workers complete the delivery of goods that Amazon ships across state lines and for which Amazon hires AmFlex workers to complete the delivery. Therefore, AmFlex workers form a part of the channels of interstate commerce and are engaged in interstate commerce.The panel also held that the TOS bars application of Washington state law to the arbitration provision. Therefore, there is no valid and enforceable arbitration agreement. View "Rittmann v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order compelling arbitration of a labor dispute between a waste management company, NASA Services, and the union. The company and union signed a Labor Peace Agreement containing an arbitration clause, and the agreement's terms were expressly conditioned upon the City entering into an exclusive franchise agreement with NASA.The panel held that the agreement clearly and unambiguously contains a condition precedent to formation that is both ascertainable and lawful. Therefore, NASA and the union were parties to a proposed agreement that would become operative, effective, and enforceable if and only if the condition precedent therein was satisfied. Consequently, the condition failed and the district court may not compel arbitration. View "International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 396 v. NASA Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration, holding that the Washington anti-arbitration statute was preempted by the federal Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986 (LRRA) as it applied to risk retention groups chartered in another state. The panel held that the McCarran-Ferguson Act does not reverse-preempt the LRRA. The panel also held that the LRRA preempts Washington's anti-arbitration statute because it offends the LRRA's broad preemption language and fails to fall into one of its exceptions. View "Allied Professionals Insurance Co. v. Anglesey" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendant's motion to compel arbitration against plaintiff, a smartphone app user. The panel applied Washington state law and held that defendant did not provide reasonable notice, actual or constructive, of its Terms of Use and thus plaintiff did not unambiguously manifest assent to the terms and conditions or the imbedded arbitration provision. In this case, defendant did not notify users that the app had terms and conditions. Rather, a user would need to seek out or stumble upon defendant's Terms, either by scrolling through multiple screens of text before downloading the app or clicking the settings menu within the app during gameplay. View "Wilson v. Huuuge, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated a final arbitration award between Monster Energy and City Beverages, dba Olympic Eagle. The parties had signed an agreement providing exclusive distribution rights for Monster's products to Olympic Eagle for a fixed term in a specified territory. After Monster exercised its contractual right to terminate the agreement, the parties proceeded to arbitration. In the final arbitration award, the arbitrator determined that Olympic Eagle did not qualify for protection under Washington law.The panel held, given the arbitrator's failure to disclose his ownership interest in JAMS, coupled with the fact that JAMS has administered 97 arbitrations for Monster over the past five years, that vacatur of the award was necessary on the ground of evident partiality. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's judgment, and also vacated the district court's award of post-arbitration fees to Monster for its petition to confirm the award. View "Monster Energy Co. v. City Beverages, LLC" on Justia Law