Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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Plaintiffs deliver baked goods by truck to stores and restaurants in designated territories within Connecticut. They brought an action in district court on behalf of a putative class against Flowers Foods, Inc. and two of its subsidiaries, which manufacture the baked goods that the plaintiffs deliver. Plaintiffs allege unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act and Connecticut wage laws. The district court granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s order compelling arbitration and dismissing the case. The court explained that it concludes that an individual works in a transportation industry if the industry in which the individual works pegs its charges chiefly to the movement of goods or passengers, and the industry’s predominant source of commercial revenue is generated by that movement. Here, because Plaintiffs do not work in the transportation industry, they are not excluded from the FAA, and the district court appropriately compelled arbitration under the Arbitration Agreement. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (“HVCU”) appealed from the district court’s ruling denying HVCU’s motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s putative class action claims for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and claims under New York law and the Federal Electronic Fund Transfer Act.   The Second Circuit vacated and remanded the district court’s ruling, holding that the record was insufficiently developed for the district court to deny the motion to compel arbitration. The court concluded that the record is insufficiently developed on the issue of whether the parties entered into an agreement to arbitrate and, as a consequence, the court wrote it cannot determine the matter of arbitrability “as a matter of law.” Therefore, the court remanded for the district court to consider further evidence or, if necessary, hold a trial.   The court further explained that it was an error for the district court to engage in the inquiry notice analysis based on the copy of the Internet Banking Agreement, which does not depict the content and design of the webpage as seen by users signing up for online banking. The court wrote that on remand, the district court should consider the design and content of the Internet Banking Agreement as it was presented to users in determining whether Plaintiff assented to its terms. And the district court should assess whether the Account Agreements are clearly identified and available to the users based on the court’s precedents. View "Zachman v. Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union" on Justia Law

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TIG Insurance Company (“TIG”) appeals from a judgment and order of the district court. TIG asserts that Judge Ramos erred in ordering it to arbitrate a coverage dispute with ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (“Exxon”). Even if it was required to arbitrate, TIG contends that Judge Ramos erred in awarding Exxon prejudgment interest when confirming the arbitral award. After entering judgment, and after TIG had appealed, the district court clerk notified the parties that it was brought to Judge Ramos’s attention that he owned stock in Exxon when he presided over the case. Nothing in the record suggests that Judge Ramos was aware of his conflict at the time he rendered his decisions, and the parties do not suggest otherwise. TIG moved in the district court to vacate the judgment. The case was reassigned to a different judge, who denied the motion to vacate. TIG appealed from that denial as well.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to vacate and the district court’s order compelling arbitration, reversed in part its decision granting Exxon’s request for prejudgment interest, and remanded to the district court for further proceedings. The court explained that vacatur was not required because this case presents only questions of law, and a non-conflicted district judge reviewed the case de novo. As to the merits, the court held that the district court did not err in compelling arbitration because the parties were subject to a binding arbitration agreement, but that the district court erred in ordering TIG to pay pre-arbitral-award interest. View "ExxonMobil Oil Corporation v. TIG Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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In an appeal from a district court ruling reducing an order of attachment in aid of arbitration. The district court had initially granted an ex parte order in favor of Petitioner, an Iraqi cell phone company (“Telecom”), attaching up to $100 million of the assets of Respondent, a Lebanese bank. Thereafter, the district court exercised its discretion and reduced the amount of the attachment to $3 million in part because of concerns the attachment would have an adverse impact on the Lebanese economy.Telecom appealed arguing that (1) it established a probability of success in the pending arbitration and was therefore entitled to an attachment of $100 million and (2) the district court lacked authority to consider extraordinary circumstances in reducing the attachment.The Second Circuit affirmed to the extent that the district court held that it had the discretion to consider extraordinary circumstances and that Telecom demonstrated a continuing need for the attachment, and to the extent that the district court attached $3 million; vacated to the extent the district court attached only $3 million based on the existence of extraordinary circumstances without considering how those circumstances might change given an attachment greater than $3 million but less than $42 million; and remanded as to (a) Telecom's probability of success, (b) the assessment of extraordinary circumstances, and (c) the amount of the attachment above $3 million. View "Iraq Telecom Ltd. v. IBL Bank S.A.L." on Justia Law

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Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited, (“Esso”) the Nigerian subsidiary of an international oil corporation, asked federal courts in the United States to enforce an arbitral award of $1.8 billion, plus interest, against the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (“NNPC”) that Nigerian courts have partially set aside. Courts in Nigeria previously set aside the Award in part. Nonetheless, Esso seeks enforcement of the entire Award under the New York Convention. NNPC urges dismissal of Esso’s suit for lack of personal jurisdiction and on the basis of forum non-conveniens, and it opposes the petition for enforcement on the merits.   The Second Circuit determined affirmed the district court’s rulings because its factual determinations were meticulous and its legal conclusions sound. The court held that NNPC has standing on cross-appeal to challenge the denial of its motion to dismiss, even though the district court ruled in its favor on the merits. NNPC has such standing because our partial vacatur on the merits revives the action against it, and it may face an adverse ruling on remand. On considering NNPC’s challenges to the district court’s denial of its motion to dismiss for want of personal jurisdiction and forum non-conveniens.   The court wrote that although the district court should have broadened its analysis under the Pemex standard, it ultimately agreed with its conclusion that U.S. courts owe the Nigerian judgments setting aside the Award comity.  The court concluded, however, that the district court went too far by refusing to enforce not only those parts of the Award that the Nigerian courts set aside but also those parts of the Award that remain viable under the Nigerian judgments. View "Esso Expl. and Prod. Nigeria Ltd. v. Nigerian Nat'l Petroleum Corp." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, sued her former employer, alleging a variety of employment law violations. Defendant moved to dismiss her suit and to compel arbitration. Defendant supported the motion by presenting an arbitration agreement bearing what appeared to be the worker’s electronic signature. In a sworn declaration, however, the worker categorically and specifically denied that the signature was hers. She also pointed to other circumstantial evidence as to its inauthenticity. The district court concluded that the worker’s evidence was insufficient to create a triable issue of fact, and so granted the restaurant’s motion.   The Second Circuit vacated the district court’s grant of Defendant’s motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The court held that the district court erred when it disregarded Plaintiff’s sworn declaration as “nothing more than a de facto extension of [her] pleadings.”The court explained that it resolves agreement-formation questions by applying the law of the state at issue. Here, under New York law, when moving to compel arbitration, “[t]he party seeking . . . arbitration bears an initial burden of demonstrating that an agreement to arbitrate was made.” As such, the burden shifted to Plaintiff, who needed to counter with at least “some evidence . . . to substantiate [her] denial” that an agreement had been made. Here, Plaintiff’s detailed accounting, under oath, is “some evidence” that she did not agree to arbitration. Thus, there is a triable issue of fact as to whether she ever received, or became aware of, Defendant’s arbitration agreements, regardless of whether she ultimately signed them. View "Barrows v. Brinker Restaurant Corporation" on Justia Law

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Petitioner appealed the district court's order entered dismissing his petition to vacate an arbitration award. The Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") requires that notice of a motion to vacate an arbitration award be served within three months of the date the arbitration award is filed or delivered. Counsel sent notice of the petition to vacate the arbitration award to Respondent late on the last day of the three-month period, but counsel did so by email. The district court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss, concluding that service was improper and untimely. On appeal, Petitioner contended that service was proper because Respondent had agreed to email service in the underlying arbitration and that the consent carried over to the judicial proceedings to vacate the award.     The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling dismissing the petition and held that email service of a notice of a petition to vacate was ineffective under 9 U.S.C. Section 12 and Fed. R. Civ. P. 5. The court reasoned that Section 12 contains no exception to the three-month limitations period. Further, under Rule 5, a party may serve papers by email only if the person being served has "consented" to service by email "in writing."  Here, Petitioner’s counsel had not asked Respondent’s counsel for consent to email service, and Respondent’s counsel had not provided consent to email service in writing, as required by Rule 5. Further, AAA Employment Arbitration Rules and Mediation Procedures 38(a)-(b) does not contemplate email service. View "Dalla-Longa v. Magnetar Capital LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, who deliver baked goods in designated territories in Connecticut, brought an action on behalf of a putative class against the manufacturer of the baked goods that Plaintiffs deliver. The district court compelled arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement that is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and Connecticut law. Plaintiffs claimed that they are not subject to the FAA because Section 1 of the FAA excludes contracts with “seamen, railroad employees, [and] any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” 9 U.S.C. Section 1. The exclusion is construed to cover “transportation workers.”   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision ordering arbitration and dismissing Plaintiff’s lawsuit against Defendant for unpaid or withheld wages, unpaid overtime wages, and unjust enrichment. The court held that Plaintiffs did not qualify as transportation workers.The court reasoned that though Plaintiffs spend appreciable parts of their working days moving goods from place to place by truck, the stores and restaurants are not buying the movement of the baked goods, so long as they arrive. The charges are for the baked goods themselves, and the movement of those goods is at most a component of the total price. The commerce is in breads, buns, rolls, and snack cakes--not transportation services. View "Bissonnette v. LePage Bakeries" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued her employer, the Institute of International Education, for discrimination in violation of federal, state, and local, employment law. The district court referred the matter to New York’s mediation program and the parties reached an agreement to settle the case. The parties committed that agreement to writing, signed it, had their counsel sign it, and had the mediator sign it. The week after the mediation, Plaintiff contacted the district court seeking to revoke her acceptance of the mediation agreement and to continue the litigation. The Institute then moved to enforce the mediation agreement. The district court enforced the mediation agreement and entered judgment in favor of the Institute.   The Second Circuit affirmed the district court judgment. The court concluded that the mediation agreement bound the parties to its terms. The court reasoned that the case is not one in which the language of the agreement merely committed the parties to “work together in accordance with the terms and conditions outlined in” the agreement, which would be an agreement to continue negotiating. And while this language was pre-printed, the parties could have crossed it out if they did not intend to acknowledge that agreement on all issues had been reached or they could have added language in the handwritten portion of the mediation agreement reserving the right not to be bound by the mediation agreement’s terms until the final agreement was drafted. Further, the court found that Plaintiff was not under duress when she signed the mediation agreement. View "Murphy v. Inst. of Int'l Educ." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal of the district court's judgment deeming his Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(A)(i) notice of dismissal without prejudice withdrawn and compelling arbitration. The court held that the district court properly retained jurisdiction following the notice of dismissal to conduct a Cheeks review of any possible settlement of plaintiff's Fair Labor Standards Act claims; and that the district court reasonably interpreted his request to continue the litigation as a withdrawal of the notice of dismissal, and, in its discretion, deemed it withdrawn. Therefore, plaintiff failed to take a timely appeal of the order deeming his notice of dismissal withdrawn, and the order to stay and compel arbitration is an unappealable interlocutory order. View "Samake v. Thunder Lube, Inc." on Justia Law