Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries
O’Neal Constructors, LLC v. DRT America, LLC
The required service of a "notice of a motion to vacate" under 9 U.S.C. 12 is not accomplished by emailing to opposing counsel a "courtesy copy" of a memorandum in support of that motion where, as here, the party to be served did not expressly consent in writing to service by email.In this contract dispute, Excel demanded arbitration with O'Neal, and DRT participated in the arbitration as a third-party respondent. Because of DRT's subsequent refusal to pay the attorney's fees part of the arbitration award, O'Neal filed a complaint in Georgia state court seeking confirmation of the award. The case was then removed to federal court. In a separate case, DRT filed a motion in district court to vacate part of the arbitration award for the $650,090.49 in attorney's fees. That night, DRT's counsel emailed O'Neal's counsel what he called a "courtesy copy" of DRT's signed and dated 20-page memorandum in support of the motion to vacate. Both cases were consolidated and the district court denied DRT's motion to vacate the attorney's fees part of the arbitration and confirmed the arbitration award. The court concluded that the district court correctly held that DRT did not serve in a proper and timely way notice of its motion to vacate and, as a result, that motion was due to be denied and the arbitration award confirmed. The court affirmed the district court's order and judgment insofar as it confirmed the arbitration award and denied the motion to vacate. The court dismissed the appeal from the district court's order and judgment awarding post-arbitration attorney's fees. View "O'Neal Constructors, LLC v. DRT America, LLC" on Justia Law
Maine Community Health Options v. Albertsons Companies, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit agreed with the Second Circuit that the amount in controversy in a Section 7 of the Federal Arbitration Act enforcement action can be measured by either the benefit to the plaintiff or the detriment to the defendant that would result from enforcement of the subpoena. In this case, because there is a good faith allegation that the benefit to plaintiff of obtaining the subpoenaed information in this controversy exceeds $75,000, the panel reversed the district court's order dismissing for want of subject matter jurisdiction and remanded for further proceedings regarding enforcement of the subpoena. View "Maine Community Health Options v. Albertsons Companies, Inc." on Justia Law
Saxon v. Southwest Airlines Co.
As a Chicago Midway International Airport ramp supervisor, Saxon supervises, trains, and assists a team of ramp agents—Southwest employees who physically load and unload planes. Ostensibly her job is purely supervisory but Saxon and other ramp supervisors frequently fill in as ramp agents. The ramp agents are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. Supervisors are excluded and agree annually as part of their contract of employment—not separately—to arbitrate wage disputes. Believing that Southwest failed to pay ramp supervisors for overtime work, Saxon filed a putative collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201–219. Southwest moved to dismiss or stay the suit pending arbitration (Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 3).The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit, citing the FAA exemption for “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” The last category refers not to all contracts of employment, but only to those belonging to “transportation workers.” The act of loading cargo onto a vehicle to be transported interstate is commerce, as that term was understood at the time of the FAA’s 1925 enactment. Airplane cargo loaders, as a class, are engaged in that commerce, as seamen and railroad employees were; Saxon and the ramp supervisors are members of that class. View "Saxon v. Southwest Airlines Co." on Justia Law
Polyflow, LLC v. Specialty RTP, LLC
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Polyflow's motion to compel arbitration with Specialty and its president. After determining that there is federal jurisdiction under a "look-through" analysis, the court concluded that the district court erred by denying the motion to compel arbitration in a single-sentence order without analysis.Applying the strong presumption in favor of arbitrability, the court concluded that the arbitration language in the parties' settlement agreement is broad. The court then applied a claim-by-claim review and concluded that it reinforces the contract's language. The court explained that the bulk of Specialty's arguments to the contrary are for an arbitrator to review. The court answered the question of law and concluded that Polyflow did not waive arbitration by availing itself to the judicial process. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions that the parties be ordered into arbitration. View "Polyflow, LLC v. Specialty RTP, LLC" on Justia Law
Bosse v. New York Life Insurance Co.
The First Circuit reversed the decision of the district court refusing to enforce arbitration clauses in the employment agreement between New York Life Insurance Company and Ketler Bosse, which expressly required that any disputes about arbitrability be referred to the arbitrator, holding that the district court abused its discretion.After New York Life terminated its business relationship with him Bosse brought this action alleging race discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981 and 1985 and other state law claims. New York Life asked the court to compel arbitration and stay or dismiss the lawsuit, but the district court refused. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) the district court's analysis contravened the Supreme Court's holdings in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., 139 S. Ct. 524 (2019), First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938 (1995) and other cases; and (2) the arbitration clause was clear, unmistakable, and unambiguous and should have been enforced on those terms. View "Bosse v. New York Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Morgan v. Sundance, Inc.
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's order denying Sundance's motion to compel arbitration of plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff filed suit against Sundance for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), alleging that Sundance failed to pay her, and other similarly situated employees, for overtime. The court concluded that the district court erred in determining Sundance waived its right to arbitrate because Sundance's conduct, even if inconsistent with its right to arbitration, did not materially prejudice plaintiff.In this case, Sundance does not dispute its knowledge of an existing right to arbitration because the employment agreement included the arbitration clause; Sundance acted inconsistently with its right to arbitration where it substantially invoked the litigation machinery primarily by waiting eight months to assert its right to arbitrate this dispute, and failed to mention the arbitration clause in its answer or motion to dismiss; but plaintiff was not prejudiced by Sundance's litigation strategy where discovery was not conducted and the record lacks any evidence that plaintiff would have to duplicate her efforts during arbitration. View "Morgan v. Sundance, Inc." on Justia Law
Betancourt v. Transportation Brokerage Specialists, Inc.
Plaintiff worked as a delivery driver for TBS, a “last-mile” delivery company whose primary client was Amazon.com. At the start of his employment, he signed an At-Will Employment, Non-Disclosure, Non-Solicitation, Class-Action Waiver and Arbitration Agreement. Plaintiff filed suit asserting violations of the Labor Code, California’s Unfair Competition Law, and the Private Attorneys General Act, unlawful retaliation, and wrongful termination. The trial court denied TBS’s motion to compel the plaintiff to arbitrate his individual claims and to dismiss his class claims. The court found that the plaintiff was exempt from Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. 1, FAA) coverage because he was a transportation worker engaged in interstate commerce and that the class action waiver was unenforceable, rendering the arbitration agreement unenforceable.The court of appeal affirmed that the plaintiff is exempt from FAA coverage and that the class action waiver is unenforceable under California law. The court reversed the order denying the motion to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s individual claims; the trial court improperly found the arbitration agreement unenforceable in its entirety rather than severing the class action waiver provision from the remainder of the employment agreement and considering the validity of the arbitration provision with respect to the individual claims for unlawful retaliation and wrongful termination. View "Betancourt v. Transportation Brokerage Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law
Meierhenry Sargent LLP v. Williams
The Eighth Circuit previously affirmed an interlocutory ruling that several counterclaims were non-arbitrable. See Meierhenry Sargent LLP v. Williams, 915 F.3d 507, 510–12 (8th Cir. 2019).The primary issue on appeal here is whether the district court "improperly rewrote" its original order by enjoining defendants from seeking damages in arbitration in excess of fees owed. Although the court could review the district court's decision, the court declined to overturn it, explaining that all the district court did was clarify its original order, which it had the authority to do. In this case, the original order stated that the counterclaims were arbitrable to the extent they reduced the amount defendants owed to the firm, and the district court clarified on remand that this restriction applied to the breach-of-contract claim too. Finally, the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the remaining claims. View "Meierhenry Sargent LLP v. Williams" on Justia Law
Emmanuel v. Handy Technologies, Inc.
The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court granting Handy Technologies, Inc.'s motion to dismiss this putative class action and to compel individual arbitration, holding that the district court did not err in dismissing Maisha Emmanuel's suit.Emmanuel, who worked as a cleaner for Handy Technologies, Inc., brought this complaint on behalf of individuals who had worked for Handy as cleaners, alleging that Handy had misclassified the putative class members as independent contractors rather than employees, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151, 1. Handy moved to dismiss and compel arbitration, arguing that the Independent Contractor Agreement that Emmanuel signed required arbitration of the claims at issue. The district court granted Handy's motion to compel arbitration and dismissed Emmanuel's putative class action claim. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the district court did not err in ruling that, under Massachusetts law, Emmanuel had entered into an agreement to arbitrate; and (2) Emmanuel's unconscionability-based challenged to the ruling below failed. View "Emmanuel v. Handy Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law
Wiggins v. Pianka
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court confirming an arbitration award in favor of Petitioner, holding that there was no error by the hearing justice in granting the motion to confirm and denying the motion to vacate the award.Respondent filed a negligence action against Petitioner after their automobiles collided. The parties submitted the matter to nonbinding arbitration, and the arbitrator concluded that Respondent failed to satisfy his burden of showing that Petitioner acted negligently. Respondent filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award, and Petitioner filed a separate petition to confirm the arbitration award. The hearing justice confirmed the award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Respondent failed to overcome his burden of defeated the presumption of validity to which an arbitration award was entitled. View "Wiggins v. Pianka" on Justia Law