Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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The Chickasaw Nation, a sovereign and federally recognized Indian tribe, operates its own healthcare system, which includes five pharmacies. Under federal law, members of federally recognized Native nations are eligible to receive healthcare services at the nations’ facilities at no charge, and a nation may recoup the cost of services that it provides to a tribal member from that member’s health insurance plan. Caremark is the pharmacy benefit manager for health insurance plans that cover many tribal members served by the Chickasaw Nation’s pharmacies. The Nation signed agreements with Caremark. Each of these agreements incorporated by reference a Provider Agreement and a Provider Manual. The Provider Manual included an arbitration provision with a delegation clause requiring the arbitrator, rather than the courts, to resolve threshold issues about the scope and enforceability of the arbitration provision. The Nation sued Caremark, claiming violations of 25 U.S.C. Section 1621e, a provision of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act referred to as the “Recovery Act.”   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting the petition to compel arbitration. The court rejected the Nation’s argument that it did not actually form contracts with Caremark that included arbitration provisions with delegation clauses. The court concluded that the premise of the Nation’s argument— that an arbitration agreement always and necessarily waives tribal sovereign immunity—was incorrect. Rather, the arbitration agreement simply designated a forum for resolving disputes for which immunity was waived. View "CAREMARK, LLC V. CHICKASAW NATION" on Justia Law

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The dispute at issue is between Jones Day and one of its former partners, a German national who was based in its Paris office until he left to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (“Orrick”). Jones Day’s partnership agreement provides for mandatory arbitration of all disputes among partners, and that all such arbitration proceedings are governed by the FAA. The partnership dispute proceeded to arbitration in Washington D.C., the location designated in the arbitration agreement.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order denying Jones Day’s petitions to compel Orrick to comply with an arbitrator’s subpoena. First, the court held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the action to enforce arbitral summonses issued by the arbitrator in an ongoing international arbitration being conducted in Washington, D.C., under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, known as the New York Convention. The court further held that venue was proper in the Northern District of California. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to enforce Jones Day’s petitions to compel Orrick and its partners to comply with the arbitral summonses. View "JONES DAY V. ORRICK, HERRINGTON & SUTCLIFFE" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff claimed that PeopleConnect used her name and likeness in its Classmates.com school yearbook database without her consent. Plaintiff retained an attorney, who created a Classmates.com account and searched for Plaintiff on the site. In creating the account, the attorney agreed to the Terms of Service, which contained an arbitration provision. Applying Ohio law, the district court denied PeopleConnect’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that there was no evidence that Plaintiff gave her counsel authority to bind her to the Terms of Service containing the arbitration provision.   The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration in an action involving a right of publicity claim against PeopleConnect, LLC under Ohio law. The panel held that the district court erred in applying Ohio law because Washington law governed the threshold question of arbitrability. Here, because no conflict was shown to exist between the law of Washington (the forum state) and Ohio law, Washington law applied. The court held that on the record before the district court, questions of fact precluded ruling on the motion to compel arbitration.   These questions of fact included: whether Plaintiff and her attorney had an agency relationship when her attorney agreed to the Terms of Service; if they did have an agency relationship, whether and how Plaintiff limited her attorney’s authority as her agent; and whether Plaintiff ratified her attorney’s agreement to arbitrate. The court held further that PeopleConnect had a right to conduct discovery on these and related arbitrability issues before the district court decides the motion to compel arbitration. View "BARBARA KNAPKE V. PEOPLECONNECT, INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Russian citizen who resides in Russia, filed a civil RICO suit against Defendant Russian citizen who resides in California, and eleven other defendants. After securing a foreign arbitration award against Defendant. Plaintiff obtained a judgment from a United States district court confirming the award and giving Plaintiff the rights to execute that judgment in California and to pursue discovery. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants engaged in illegal activity, in violation of RICO, to thwart the execution of that California judgment.   Consistent with the Second and Third Circuits, but disagreeing with the Seventh Circuit’s residency-based test for domestic injuries involving intangible property, the court held that the alleged injuries to a judgment obtained by Plaintiff from a United States district court in California were domestic injuries to property such that Plaintiff had statutory standing under RICO. The court concluded that, for purposes of standing under RICO, the California judgment existed as property in California because the rights that it provided to Plaintiff existed only in California. In addition, much of the conduct underlying the alleged injury occurred in or was targeted at California. View "VITALY SMAGIN V. COMPAGNIE MONEGASQUE DE BANQUE" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to federal defendants in a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) action brought by Inter-Cooperative Exchange (“ICE”), a cooperative of fishers who harvest and deliver crab off the coast of Alaska, seeking the government’s communications concerning the government’s decision not to factor Alaska’s minimum wage increase into the arbitration system that sets the price of crab.   The North Pacific Fishery Management Council manages fisheries off the coast of Alaska. In 2005, the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) implemented a program recommended by the Council to allocate crab resources among harvesters, processors, and coastal communities. Alaska increased the minimum wage, which raised the question of whether costs should be considered under the arbitration system. The Council reviewed the matter at a 2017 meeting where an Assistant Regional Administrator of NMFS and a voting member of the Council, introduced an unsuccessful motion to include costs for consideration in the arbitration system.   The court held that on the facts here, the three search terms were not reasonably calculated to uncover all documents relevant to ICE’s request. ICE contended that the government’s choice of search terms was unduly narrow and not reasonably calculated to uncover all documents relevant to its FOIA request. The court held that the government’s choice of search terms was overly narrow. View "INTER-COOPERATIVE EXCHANGE V. USDOC" on Justia Law

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The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation (“Sycuan” or “Tribe”), a federally recognized Indian tribe, sought the reversal of the district court’s order granting labor union, Unite Here Local 30’s (“Unite Here”), motion for judgment on the pleadings with respect to its own complaint and motion to dismiss Sycuan’s counterclaim. Unite Here alleged that Sycuan violated the labor provisions of a contract between the two parties respecting the operation of a casino. The union brought suit to compel arbitration of that dispute pursuant to a clause contained in the contract. Sycuan opposed arbitration.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment on the pleadings in favor of Unite Here and the district court’s dismissal of a counterclaim brought by Sycuan. The court held the district court had original jurisdiction over Unite Here’s claims. Further, the court held that the district court had supplemental, but not original, jurisdiction over Sycuan’s counterclaim because the Declaratory Judgment Act does not confer jurisdiction, and Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act could not confer federal question jurisdiction.   The court concluded that the arbitrator should decide issues of contract validity, and the counterclaim rested on an issue of contract validity. Accordingly, the district court’s declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction served economy, convenience, and fairness. The court also held that Unite Here and Sycuan formed an agreement to arbitrate because Sycuan promised California that if any union made certain promises to the tribe, Sycuan would automatically enter into a bilateral contract with that union adopting the TLRO’s terms. View "UNITE HERE LOCAL 30 V. SYCUAN BAND" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs used the defendants’ websites but did not see a notice stating, “I understand and agree to the Terms & Conditions, which includes mandatory arbitration.” When a dispute arose, defendants moved to compel arbitration, arguing that plaintiffs’ use of the website signified their agreement to the mandatory arbitration provision found in the hyperlinked terms.The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs did not unambiguously manifest their assent to the terms and conditions when navigating through the websites. As a result, they never entered into a binding agreement to arbitrate their dispute, as required under the Federal Arbitration Act. The panel explained that the courts have routinely enforced “clickwrap” agreements, which present users with specified contractual terms on a pop-up screen requiring users to check a box explicitly stating “I agree” to proceed. However, courts are more reluctant to enforce browsewrap agreements, which provides notice only after users click a hyperlink.Finally, the panel held that the district court properly exercised its discretion in denying the defendants’ motion for reconsideration based on deposition testimony taken two months prior to the district court’s ruling on the motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs did not unambiguously manifest their assent to the terms and conditions when navigating the website. Thus, they never entered into a binding agreement to arbitrate. The court affirmed the district court’s order denying the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration. View "DANIEL BERMAN V. FREEDOM FINANCIAL NETWORK LLC" on Justia Law

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Ngo purchased a BMW. The dealership financed Ngo’s purchase; the purchase agreement contained an arbitration clause. As a result of alleged defects with the car, Ngo sued BMW, the manufacturer, which was not a signatory to the purchase agreement. BMW moved to compel arbitration. The district court granted the motion, finding BMW to be a third-party beneficiary.The Ninth Circuit reversed. Under California law, a nonsignatory is a third-party beneficiary only to a contract made expressly for its benefit. Any benefit that BMW might receive from the clause was peripheral and indirect because it was predicated on the decisions of others to arbitrate. The purchase agreement was drafted with the primary "motivating purpose" of securing benefits for the contracting parties; third parties were not the purposeful beneficiaries of that undertaking. Nothing in the contract evinced any intention that the arbitration clause should apply to BMW. The parties easily could have indicated that the contract was intended to benefit BMW but did not do so. The court declined to apply equitable estoppel to compel arbitration. Ngo did not allege any “concerted misconduct.” BMW was mistaken that, under the Song-Beverley and Magnuson-Moss Warranty Acts, Ngo’s claims were inextricably intertwined with the terms of the purchase agreement. View "Ngo v. BMW of North America, LLC" on Justia Law

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Bird and other blind vendors filed a formal complaint with Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB) seeking arbitration, prospective relief, and attorney’s fees as a consequence of OCB’s alleged mishandling of vending contracts and representation of blind vendors’ interests. The arbitration panel denied relief. The district court held that sovereign immunity did not apply to an arbitration panel’s decision under the Randolph-Sheppard Act (RSA), which creates a cooperative federal-state program that gives preference to blind applicants for vending licenses at federal facilities, 20 U.S.C. 107, and that the Eleventh Amendment did not protect OCB from liability for damages. The Ninth Circuit reversed. Neither the RSA nor the parties’ operating agreements unequivocally waived a state’s sovereign immunity from liability for monetary damages, attorney’s fees, or costs. Citing the Supreme Court’s 2011 "Sossamon" decision, the court rejected a “constructive waiver” argument, reasoning that a waiver of sovereign immunity must be explicit. An agreement to arbitrate all disputes simply did not unequivocally waive sovereign immunity from liability for monetary damages. The operating agreements incorporated the text of the RSA and contained no express waiver of immunity from money damages. Because no provision of the RSA or the operating agreements provided for attorney’s fees, Bird was not entitled to attorney’s fees. View "Bird v. Oregon Commission for the Blind" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing a putative class action complaint and granting defendant's motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Plaintiff contends that the arbitration agreement upon which DHIM relies was not properly formed.The panel agreed with its sister circuits and held that parties cannot delegate issues of formation to the arbitrator. In this case, where plaintiff challenged the very existence of an agreement to arbitrate, the district court was required to address his challenge and determine whether an agreement existed. If no agreement to arbitrate was formed, then there is no basis upon which to compel arbitration. The panel also concluded that the mutual arbitration agreement, as drafted, describes and governs a relationship between plaintiff and D.R. Horton that does not exist, and thus does not constitute a properly formed agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Ahlstrom v. DHI Mortgage Co." on Justia Law