Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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Employees at Akers's manufacturing facility were union members, represented by USW under collective bargaining agreements (CBAs). In 2016, Akers was acquired by Ampco. Former Akers employees who had retired but were under age 65 (not eligible for Medicare) then paid $195 per month for their healthcare. Ampco planned to eliminate that benefit for those who had retired before March 2015. The new plan would require retirees to purchase health insurance on the private market and then be reimbursed up to $500 per month for individuals ($700 for families), for five years. Retirees cited a February 2015 memorandum of agreement (MOA), providing that “[c]urrent retirees will remain on their existing Plan ($195.00 monthly premium).” USW filed a grievance. Ampco rejected the grievance, claiming that the Union no longer represented the retirees. USW and Cup, who retired from the plant in 2014, on behalf of a class, filed a non-substantive claim compelling arbitration under the Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185; a claim to enforce the CBA; and, alternatively, a claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. 1132(a). Having ruled in the Union’s favor on the arbitration count, the court dismissed the substantive counts. The Third Circuit stayed enforcement of the arbitration order, then concluded that the dispute is not subject to arbitration under the CBA because retiree health benefits are not covered by the CBA. Retiree health benefits are discussed in the MOA, which was never incorporated into the CBA; whether the omission was was intentional or inadvertent, the contracts must be enforced as written. View "Cup v. Ampco Pittsburgh Corp" on Justia Law

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Reading, a Pennsylvania not-for-profit health system, issued auction rate securities (ARSs) to finance capital projects. J.P. Morgan was the underwriter and broker-dealer. Reading claims that J.P. Morgan and others artificially propped up the ARS market through undisclosed support bidding; when they stopped in 2008, the market collapsed. Reading filed state law claims and demanded arbitration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements state “all actions and proceedings arising out of” the agreements or ARS transactions must be filed in the Southern District of New York. Reading filed a claim under FINRA Rule 12200, which requires a FINRA member (J.P. Morgan) to arbitrate any dispute at the customer’s request. J.P. Morgan refused, arguing that the forum-selection clauses in the 2005 and 2007 broker-dealer agreements constituted a waiver of Reading’s right to arbitrate under Rule 12200. The Third Circuit affirmed the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which resolved the transfer dispute before the arbitrability dispute, declined to transfer the action, and required J.P. Morgan to submit to arbitration. Reading’s right to arbitrate is not contractual but arises out of a binding, regulatory rule, adopted by FINRA and approved by the SEC. Condoning an implicit waiver of Reading’s regulatory right to arbitrate would erode investors’ ability to use a cost-effective means of resolving allegations of misconduct and undermine FINRA’s ability to oversee and remedy such misconduct. View "Reading Health System v. Bear Stearns & Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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After paying a total of $15,493.00 on his $5,000 loan, MacDonald filed a putative class action concerning the loan agreement. He cited RICO and New Jersey state usury and consumer laws, arguing that the agreement is usurious and unconscionable for containing a provision requiring that all disputes be resolved through arbitration conducted by a representative of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) and a clause that delegates questions about the arbitration provision’s enforceability to the arbitrator. No CRST arbitral forum exists. The agreement also purported to waive all of the borrower’s state and federal statutory rights. The district court denied a motion to compel arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that the agreement directs arbitration to an illusory forum without a provision for an alternative forum, and the forum selection clause is not severable, so that the entire agreement to arbitrate, including the delegation clause, is unenforceable. View "MacDonald v. Cashcall Inc." on Justia Law

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After paying a total of $15,493.00 on his $5,000 loan, MacDonald filed a putative class action concerning the loan agreement. He cited RICO and New Jersey state usury and consumer laws, arguing that the agreement is usurious and unconscionable for containing a provision requiring that all disputes be resolved through arbitration conducted by a representative of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe (CRST) and a clause that delegates questions about the arbitration provision’s enforceability to the arbitrator. No CRST arbitral forum exists. The agreement also purported to waive all of the borrower’s state and federal statutory rights. The district court denied a motion to compel arbitration. The Third Circuit affirmed, concluding that the agreement directs arbitration to an illusory forum without a provision for an alternative forum, and the forum selection clause is not severable, so that the entire agreement to arbitrate, including the delegation clause, is unenforceable. View "MacDonald v. Cashcall Inc." on Justia Law

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The “Sunoco Rewards Program,” which Sunoco advertised, offered customers who buy gas at Sunoco locations using a Citibank-issued credit card a five-cent per gallon discount either at the pump or on their monthly billing statements. The “Terms and Conditions of Offer” sheet, indicating that Citibank is the issuer of the Card, stated that by applying for the card, the applicant authorized Citibank to “share with Sunoco® and its affiliates experiential and transactional information regarding your activity with us.” Sunoco was not a corporate affiliate of and had no ownership interest in Citibank and vice versa. White obtained a Sunoco Rewards Card from Citibank in 2013. He made fuel purchases with the card at various Sunoco-branded gas station locations. White filed a purported class action against Sunoco, not Citibank, alleging that “[c]ontrary to its clear and express representations, Sunoco does not apply a 5¢/gallon discount on all fuel purchases made by cardholders at every Sunoco location. Sunoco omits this material information to induce customers to sign-up for the Sunoco. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of Sunoco’s motion to compel arbitration. Sunoco, a non-signatory to the credit card agreement and not mentioned in the agreement, cannot compel White to arbitrate. View "White v. Sunoco Inc" on Justia Law

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The Fund, a multi-employer benefit plan established under Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 186(c)(5). The Act broadly prohibits employers from providing payments of money or other items of value to employee representatives, with an exception for employee benefit trust funds that comply with statutory requirements, including mandatory administration by a board of trustees composed of an equal number of employee and employer representatives. The Fund is overseen by five union-designated trustees and five employer-designated trustees. The Act requires such funds to install a mechanism allowing a federal district court to appoint a neutral party to resolve any impasse; the Fund’s Agreement specifies that “[i]n the event of a deadlock,” the Trustees “may agree upon an impartial umpire to break such deadlock.” If they cannot agree with a reasonable time, they may petition the District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to appoint an impartial umpire. The Trustees deadlocked on a motion seeking to approve payment of compensation to eligible Trustees for attendance at Fund meetings and another seeking to clarify and confirm the eligibility requirements for Employer Trustees. In each case, one-half of the board petitioned the court to appoint an arbitrator to settle the dispute, and the opposing half sought to prevent the requested appointment. The court declined to send either conflict to arbitration. The Third Circuit remanded, finding that both disputes were within the purview of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate. View "Employer Trustees of Western Pennsylvania Teamsters v. Union Trustees of Western Pennsylvania Teamsters" on Justia Law

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Moon performed at the Breathless Men’s Club in Rahway. She rented performance space in the Club and signed an Independent Dancer Rental Agreement, stating: Dancer understands and agrees that he/she is an independent contractor and not an employee of club. Dancer is renting the performance space for an agreed upon fee previously agreed to by Dancer and Club. … In a dispute between Dancer and Club under this Agreement, either may request to resolve the dispute by binding arbitration. THIS MEANS THAT NEITHER PARTY SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO LITIGATE SUCH CLAIM IN COURT OR TO HAVE A JURY TRIAL – DISCOVERY AND APPEAL RIGHTS ARE LIMITED IN ARBITRATION. ARBITRATION MUST BE ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS. THIS MEANS NEITHER YOU NOR WE MAY JOIN OR CONSOLIDATE CLAIMS IN ARBITRATION, OR LITIGATE IN COURT OR ARBITRATE ANY CLAIMS AS A REPRESENTATIVE OR MEMBER OF A CLASS. Moon sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201; the New Jersey Wage Payment Law; and the state Wage and Hour Law. The district court denied a motion to dismiss and ordered limited discovery on the arbitration issue. After discovery, the court granted the Club summary judgment. The Third Circuit reversed. Moon’s claims do not arise out of the contract itself; the arbitration clause does not cover Moon’s statutory wage-and-hour claims. View "Moon v. Breathless Inc" on Justia Law