Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries
Jin O. Jin v. Parsons Corp.
After plaintiff filed suit against Parsons for employment discrimination, Parsons moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied the motion, concluding that genuine disputes of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff agreed to arbitrate. The DC Circuit held that Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act makes plain that the district court, once it concluded that a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether plaintiff assented to the arbitration agreement, should have proceeded to try the issue of arbitrability. Section 4 allows the defendant to move the district court to compel the parties to arbitrate their dispute, but if arbitrability of the dispute itself is in issue, the FAA instructs the district court to proceed summarily to trial on that limited issue. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions that the district court should hold the motion in abeyance pending its prompt resolution of whether the parties agreed to arbitrate. View "Jin O. Jin v. Parsons Corp." on Justia Law
Garner v. Inter-State Oil Co.
Chris Garner sued Inter-State Oil Company alleging employment claims and seeking certification of a class action. Based on an arbitration agreement between Garner and Inter-State Oil, the trial court granted Inter-State Oil’s petition to compel arbitration of individual claims only, effectively denying Garner the ability to pursue class action claims. The trial court relied on language in the arbitration agreement stating that Garner waived his right to participate in class action lawsuits. On appeal of the order granting the motion to compel arbitration, Garner contended: (1) the plain language of the arbitration agreement gave him the right to pursue his class claims in arbitration; and (2) Inter-State Oil waived reliance on the arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the arbitration agreement required arbitration of Garner’s class claims; and (2) Inter-State Oil did not waive reliance on the arbitration agreement. The Court modified the trial court’s order to require arbitration of both individual and class claims, and affirmed the order as modified. View "Garner v. Inter-State Oil Co." on Justia Law
Gibbs v. Haynes Investments, LLC
After a group of borrowers filed suit against two online lenders, the Haynes Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the motion to arbitrate, holding that the borrowers sufficiently challenged the validity of the delegation clauses and the district court was correct to consider the enforceability of the arbitration agreements. The court also held that the choice-of-law clauses amount to a prospective waiver such that the arbitration agreements, including the delegation clauses, are unenforceable. Therefore, the court explained that the district court had the authority to decide whether the arbitration agreements were valid, correctly decided they were not, and did not err in denying the motion to compel arbitration. View "Gibbs v. Haynes Investments, LLC" on Justia Law
Gibbs v. Sequoia Capital Operations, LLC
After a group of borrowers filed suit against two online lenders, the Sequoia Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the motion to arbitrate, holding that the borrowers sufficiently challenged the validity of the delegation clauses and the district court was correct to consider the enforceability of the arbitration agreements. Furthermore, because the effect of the choice-of-law provisions is to stymie the vindication of the federal statutory claims that the borrowers seek to enforce, they amount to a prospective waiver and render the delegation provisions unenforceable. The court therefore held that the entire arbitration agreement is unenforceable. The court explained that the district court had the authority to decide whether the arbitration agreements were valid, correctly decided they were not, and did not err in denying the motion to compel arbitration. View "Gibbs v. Sequoia Capital Operations, LLC" on Justia Law
Torrecillas v. Fitness International, LLC
The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of Fitness's motion to compel arbitration in an employment dispute with plaintiff. The court held that the arbitration agreement was not procedurally unconscionable where both the 2008 and 2013 agreements had no elements of surprise. Furthermore, plaintiff failed to point to any instances of oppression. The court also held that the arbitration agreement was not substantively unconscionable where plaintiff's deal with Fitness does not shock the conscience, for its terms are standard rather than shocking. Finally, the court rejected plaintiff's claim of issue preclusion. View "Torrecillas v. Fitness International, LLC" on Justia Law
Collie v. The Icee Co.
The Icee Company and J & J Snack Foods Corp. (collectively, Icee) appealed a trial court’s order denying their motion to compel arbitration of a dispute with a former employee. The employee, Taraun Collie, alleged a single cause of action against Icee under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). Collie alleged that he worked for Icee from November 2014 to August 2015. When he began his employment, he signed an arbitration agreement. In July 2016, Collie filed his PAGA complaint on behalf of himself and other aggrieved employees. Icee moved to compel arbitration of Collie’s “individual claim” in August 2018. It argued that the parties had agreed to bilateral arbitration only, so Collie had to arbitrate his PAGA cause of action on an individual basis—that is, he could not seek PAGA penalties on behalf of other Icee employees. And because Collie had agreed to arbitrate all claims or controversies with Icee, he had effectively waived his right to bring a PAGA action on behalf of other employees in any forum. The trial court denied Icee’s motion, concluding that the California Supreme Court’s decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation Los Angeles LLC, 59 Cal.4th 348 (2014), required that result. The Court of Appeal concluded that under Iskanian, an employee could not be compelled to arbitrate a PAGA cause of action on the basis of a predispute arbitration agreement, thereby affirming the trial court. View "Collie v. The Icee Co." on Justia Law
Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc.
The First Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Appellants' motion to compel arbitration in this putative class action, holding that the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) exemption for "contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce" encompasses the contracts of transportation workers who transport goods or people within the flow of interstate commerce. Plaintiff was a delivery driver for Amazon.com, Inc. and its subsidiary, Amazon Logistics, Inc. (collectively, Amazon) who collected packages for delivery in Massachusetts and did not cross state lines during the course of his deliveries. Plaintiff filed this putative class action asserting misclassification of Amazon's drivers contracted with through its smartphone application as independent contractors and violations of Massachusetts labor laws. Amazon moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the mandatory arbitration provision of Plaintiff's employment agreement with Amazon. The district court denied the motion in part, concluding that Plaintiff's agreement was exempt from the FAA and that the provision was unenforceable based on Massachusetts public policy. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the FAA does not govern the enforceability of the dispute resolution section of the agreement; and (2) the district court rightly refused to compel arbitration pursuant to state law. View "Waithaka v. Amazon.com, Inc." on Justia Law
Vantage Deepwater Co. v. Petrobras America, Inc.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's order confirming a $622 million arbitration award. The parties are oil and gas companies incorporated in different countries, and the dispute arose from the Agreement for the Provision of Drilling Services (DSA). About two years into the DSA's term, Vantage and Petrobras executed the Third Novation and Amendment Agreement, which included an arbitration clause. As a preliminary matter, the court stated that it need not decide the issue of whether the appeal waiver was enforceable. On the merits, the court held that there was no public policy bar to confirmation of the arbitration award. In this case, the district court did not engage in inappropriate deference to the arbitrator's decision and the district court did not base its decision just on "mutual mistake." The court also held that Petrobras has not shown that the district court abused its discretion in denying the discovery motions. Finally, the court rejected Petrobras' motion to vacate the arbitration award. View "Vantage Deepwater Co. v. Petrobras America, Inc." on Justia Law
Aixtron, Inc. v. Veeco Instruments Inc.
Saldana resigned from his position at Veeco and went to work for a competitor, Aixtron. Veeco initiated arbitration proceedings against Saldana under an arbitration clause in his employee confidentiality agreement, alleging breach of contract, breach of the duty of loyalty, and conversion, including alleged data theft. Aixtron was not a party to the arbitration. The arbitrator granted Veeco’s application for a pre-hearing discovery subpoena for Aixtron’s business records, including a demand that Aixtron produce any computers that Saldana had used for forensic examination by “an agreed-upon third-party neutral expert.” Over Aixtron’s objections, the arbitrator granted Veeco’s motion to compel. Aixtron sought judicial review; Veeco filed a separate petition to enforce the arbitrator’s discovery order, which the court granted. The court of appeal reversed, after first finding the order appealable. The arbitrator did not have the authority to issue a discovery subpoena to Aixtron in these circumstances under either the Federal Arbitration Act or the California Arbitration Act. Federal precedent indicates that there is no right to pre-hearing discovery under the FAA. There is no such right under Code of Civil Procedure section 1282.61 since the parties to the arbitration did not provide for full discovery rights in their arbitration agreement. View "Aixtron, Inc. v. Veeco Instruments Inc." on Justia Law
Teamsters Local 177 v. United Parcel Service
The Union sought confirmation of an arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 9. Section 9 provides that a district court “must grant” a confirmation order for an award upon application where the award has not been “vacated, modified, or corrected” under the Act. UPS, the loser in arbitration, opposed confirmation and filed a cross-motion to dismiss, arguing that the district court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction because there was no case or controversy as required by Article III of the Constitution, given that UPS agreed to abide by the award and corrected any subsequent violations. The Third Circuit reversed. The district court had subject matter jurisdiction to confirm the award even in the absence of a new dispute about it. The confirmation of an arbitration award is a summary proceeding that merely makes what is already a final arbitration award a judgment of the court. Confirmation is the process through which a party to arbitration completes the award process under the Act, as the award becomes a final and enforceable judgment, 9 U.S.C. 13. The Act not only authorizes but mandates, that district courts confirm arbitration awards by converting them into enforceable judgments through a summary proceeding. View "Teamsters Local 177 v. United Parcel Service" on Justia Law