Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
Hernandez v. MicroBilt Corp
In this case, the plaintiff, Maria Del Rosario Hernandez, filed a lawsuit against MicroBilt Corporation alleging the company violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act after the lender denied her loan application based on inaccurate information provided by a MicroBilt product. MicroBilt moved to compel arbitration based on the terms and conditions that Hernandez agreed to while applying for the loan, which included an arbitration provision. However, Hernandez had already submitted her claims to the American Arbitration Association (AAA) for arbitration.The AAA notified MicroBilt that its agreement with Hernandez was a consumer agreement, which meant the AAA's Consumer Arbitration Rules applied. Applying these rules, the AAA notified MicroBilt that its arbitration provision included a material or substantial deviation from the Consumer Rules and/or Protocol. Specifically, the provision’s limitation on damages conflicted with the Consumer Due Process Protocol, which requires that an arbitrator should be empowered to grant whatever relief would be available in court under law or in equity. After MicroBilt did not waive the damages limitation, the AAA declined to administer the arbitration under Rule 1(d).MicroBilt asked Hernandez to submit her claims to a different arbitrator, but she refused, requesting a hearing before the District Court. She argued that she must now pursue her claims in court because the AAA dismissed the case under Rule 1(d). The District Court reinstated Hernandez’s complaint and granted MicroBilt leave to move to compel arbitration under 9 U.S.C. § 4. However, the District Court denied MicroBilt’s motion to compel, leading to this appeal.The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the lower court's decision, stating that Hernandez had fully complied with MicroBilt’s arbitration provision, which allowed her to pursue her claims in court. The court held that it lacked the authority to compel arbitration. The court rejected MicroBilt's arguments that the AAA administrator improperly resolved an arbitrability issue that should have been resolved by an arbitrator, that the provision’s Exclusive Resolution clause conflicted with Hernandez’s return to court, and that the AAA’s application of the Consumer Due Process Protocol was unreasonable. The court concluded that it lacked the authority to review the AAA’s decision or to sever the damages limitation from the arbitration provision. View "Hernandez v. MicroBilt Corp" on Justia Law
KIM V. TINDER, INC.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's approval of a class action settlement between Tinder and Lisa Kim, a user of the dating app, ruling that Kim was not an adequate class representative. This class action lawsuit against Tinder was over its former age-based pricing model. Kim had agreed to arbitration, unlike over 7,000 potential members of the class, creating a fundamental conflict of interest that violated Rule 23(a)(4). The court found that Kim had a strong interest in settling her claim as she had no chance of going to trial, unlike the other members. The court also noted that Kim failed to vigorously litigate the case on behalf of the class, with her approach to opposing Tinder’s motion to compel arbitration not suggesting vigor. The court remanded the case for consideration of Kim's individual action against Tinder. View "KIM V. TINDER, INC." on Justia Law
Pagel, et al. v. Weikum
Jeffrey Weikum appealed a district court order and judgment denying his motion to compel arbitration, and granting Rodney Pagel and Scott Hager's motion for summary judgment. The parties agreed to dissolve their law firm, Pagel Weikum, PLLP, and entered into a Release and Settlement Agreement. The Agreement included an arbitration clause. Pagel and Hager filed suit against Weikum for breach of contract and conversion. Weikum moved to dismiss and compel arbitration. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed, finding the arbitration clause at issue in the Agreement was broad, and not limited by any exceptions. The Court concluded the district court misinterpreted the Agreement by finding the claims raised were not arbitrable, and by denying the motion to compel arbitration of those claims. View "Pagel, et al. v. Weikum" on Justia Law
McMurray Contracting, LLC v. Hardy
McMurray Contracting, LLC ("McMurray"), appealed a circuit court's denial of its second motion to compel arbitration of this case commenced by Kenneth Hardy and his wife Helen Hardy. The Hardys filed suit in December 2022 alleging they "retained" McMurray to perform restoration work to their house damaged in Hurricane Sally. The Hardys specifically alleged that McMurray "did not complete all restoration work in a good and workmanlike manner, and has refused to correct numerous deficiencies through [the Hardys'] property," and that McMurray "performed work and charged for materials that were never approved." The Alabama Supreme Court found McMurray's notice of appeal was not timely filed so as to invoke the Supreme Court's jurisdiction. Accordingly, it dismissed McMurray's appeal. View "McMurray Contracting, LLC v. Hardy" on Justia Law
Women’s Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter
Consolidated appeals arose from an employment dispute between Dr. Margot Potter and her former employer, Women's Care Specialists, P.C. ("Women's Care"), and out of a dispute between Potter and three Women's Care employees: Dr. Karla Kennedy, Dr. Elizabeth Barron, and Beth Ann Dorsett ("the WC employees"). In case no. CV-21-903797, Potter alleged claims of defamation, tortious interference with a business relationship, and breach of contract against Women's Care. In case no. CV-21-903798, Potter alleged claims of defamation and tortious interference with a business relationship against the WC employees. After the cases were consolidated by the circuit court, Women's Care and the WC employees moved to compel arbitration on the basis that Potter's claims were within the scope of the arbitration provision in Potter's employment agreement with Women's Care and that the arbitration provision governed their disputes even though Potter was no longer a Women's Care employee. The trial court denied those motions. In appeal no. SC-2022-0706, the Alabama Supreme Court held Potter's breach of-contract claim and her tort claims against Women's Care were subject to arbitration. In appeal no. SC-2022-0707, the Court likewise held Potter's tort claims against the WC employees were subject to arbitration. The trial court's orders were denied and the cases remanded for further proceedings. View "Women's Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter" on Justia Law
Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc. v. Empire Indemnity Insurance Company
These appeals are about a pending insurance contract dispute between Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc., and Empire Indemnity Insurance Company, which issued an insurance policy (the “Policy”) to Positano for coverage of five buildings that Positano owns in Naples, Florida. Following Hurricane Irma, Positano filed a first-party claim for property insurance benefits under the Policy, claiming that Hurricane Irma damaged its property and that the damage was covered by the Policy. Empire determined that there was coverage to only three of the five buildings covered by the Policy but disagreed as to the amount of the loss. Positano sought to invoke appraisal based on the Policy’s appraisal provision. Positano sued Empire in Florida state court, and Empire removed the case to federal court based on diversity jurisdiction. Positano moved to compel appraisal and to stay the case pending the resolution of the appraisal proceedings, which Empire opposed. The magistrate judge issued a report recommending that the district court grant Positano’s motion, and, over Empire’s objection, the district court ordered the parties to appraisal and stayed the proceedings pending appraisal. Empire timely appealed the district court’s order. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed the appeal. The court concluded that the district court’s order compelling appraisal and staying the proceedings pending appraisal is an interlocutory order that is not immediately appealable under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(a)(1). The court concluded that the order compelling appraisal and staying the action pending appraisal is not immediately appealable under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). View "Positano Place at Naples I Condominium Association, Inc. v. Empire Indemnity Insurance Company" on Justia Law
McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al.
Construction firm Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, received the prime contract to expand the University of Mississippi Medical Center Children’s Hospital in 2017. Electrical contractor McInnis Electric Company secured the winning bid to install the electrical and low voltage systems package for the project and subsequently signed a subcontract with Brasfield & Gorrie. Terms of the subcontract incorporated the prime contract, which were related to the same project by reference. The contract provided that work was set to begin on the project on February 15, 2018. However, McInnis, was directed not to report on site until June 4, 2018, and, due to delays, was unable to begin until July 23, 2018. As work progressed, the schedule allegedly became delayed as a result of Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate the work of the various subcontractors. McInnis averred that Brasfield & Gorrie’s failure to coordinate and facilitate the work of the various subcontractors worsened as the project progressed, and Brasfield & Gorrie experienced turnover in management. This failure allegedly delayed McInnis’s work, which was not on the path toward completion, supposedly through no fault of its own. Construction issues were amplified when on March 11, 2020, Mississippi experienced its first reported case of COVID-19. On April 1, 2020, the Mississippi Governor instituted a shelter in place order in response to the ongoing pandemic, requiring certain nonessential businesses to close and recommending social distancing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Mississippi. The children’s hospital was not classified as an existing infrastructure as it was a nonoperational work in progress and thus was not subject to the executive order’s exception to the governmental shutdowns. By May 8, 2020, McInnis had suffered an approximately 40 percent loss in its workforce due to employees testing positive for COVID-19. Despite the decrease in the available workforce, Brasfield & Gorrie demanded McInnis perform under its contractual obligation. McInnis took measures to continue the work. Brasfield & Gorrie further declined requests for accommodation and instead terminated McInnis on May 13, 2020. The case before the Mississippi Supreme Court here stemmed from disagreements and a broken contract between the parties, contesting whether arbitration was appropriate to settle their disputes. The trial court compelled arbitration, and the Supreme Court affirmed. View "McInnis Electric Company v. Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC et al." on Justia Law
Breadeaux’s Pisa, LLC v. Beckman Bros. Ltd.
Breadeaux’s Pisa, LLC (“Breadeaux”) initiated this action against its franchisee, Beckman Bros. Ltd. (“Main Street Pizza”), in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction, a permanent injunction, and a declaratory judgment. After litigating its preliminary injunction, mediating, and participating in discovery proceedings, Breadeaux filed a demand for arbitration in which it sought to relitigate its preliminary injunction and avoid the court’s adverse discovery rulings. Breadeaux then moved to stay all proceedings pending completion of arbitration. The district court denied Breadeaux’s motion. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Section 3’s stay provision is mandatory when “the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration” under a valid arbitration agreement. 9 U.S.C. Section 3. The court wrote that it is unpersuaded by Breadeaux’s assertion that the only reasonable reading of the arbitration provision in the Agreement is that all claims or disputes, besides Breadeaux’s equitable claims, must be arbitrated. Additionally, Breadeaux elected to enforce the Agreement by judicial process, not through mediation and arbitration. Under these circumstances, Breadeaux’s claims are not referable. View "Breadeaux's Pisa, LLC v. Beckman Bros. Ltd." on Justia Law
PriorityOne Bank v. Folkes
Laura Folkes sued PriorityOne Bank (PriorityOne) in Mississippi chancery court, seeking to set aside a foreclosure on the ground that it had been conducted in bad faith. PriorityOne appealed the chancellor’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration. In 2019, PriorityOne made a loan via a line of credit to Folkes, secured by a deed of trust on a commercial tract of real property. Folkes filed for bankruptcy in February 2020. PriorityOne foreclosed on the property after Folkes defaulted on her payment obligations under the bankruptcy agreement. Prior to the foreclosure, Folkes’s bankruptcy trustee made one payment in the amount of $9,394 to PriorityOne, which was credited to the loan. Following the foreclosure, PriorityOne sold the property to Steven Adams. In 2021, Folkes filed a complaint at chancery court alleging that the foreclosure was made in bad faith because the bank had accepted a “substantial payment” toward the debt prior to foreclosure. The chancellor never ruled on this motion. Later, Folkes amended her complaint against PriorityOne, PriorityOne employee Harvey Lott, Steven Adams, and 5-A Properties, LLP. In May 2022, the circuit court ordered that case to arbitration. In the chancery court proceeding, and with PriorityOne’s motion for summary judgment pending, Folkes was granted permission to amend her complaint to add clarifying facts to certain issues raised in the original complaint. The chancellor denied PriorityOne’s motion to compel arbitration, noting that chancery court was a court of equity and finding that Folkes “has established a prima faci[e] case showing that some impropriety may have occurred at or around the time of the foreclosure on her property that demands that she be given the opportunity to prove her case.” On the specific circumstances before us, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with Folkes that PriorityOne waived any right it may have had to compel arbitration by substantially participating in litigation and that Folkes was bound by her representation to the Court that the amended chancery complaint did not and was not intended to add discrete claims to her chancery action. View "PriorityOne Bank v. Folkes" on Justia Law
Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor
Petitioner was employed at Office Depot as a senior financial analyst. He was responsible for, among other things, ensuring data integrity. One of Ronnie’s principal duties was to calculate and report a metric called “Sales Lift.” Sales Lift is a metric designed to quantify the cost-reduction benefit of closing redundant retail stores. Petitioner identified two potential accounting errors that he believed signaled securities fraud related to the Sales Lift. Petitioner alleged that after he reported the issue, his relationship with his boss became strained. Eventually, Petitioner was terminated at that meeting for failing to perform the task of identifying the cause of the data discrepancy. Petitioner filed complaint with the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and OSHA dismissed his complaint. Petitioner petitioned for review of the ARB’s decision. The Eleventh Circuit denied the petition. The court explained that Petitioner failed to allege sufficient facts to establish that a reasonable person with his training and experience would believe this conduct constituted a SOX violation, the ARB’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. The court wrote that Petitioner’s assertions that Office Depot intentionally manipulated sales data and that his assigned task of investigating the discrepancy was a stalling tactic are mere speculation, which alone is not enough to create a genuine issue of fact as to the objective reasonableness of Petitioner’s belief. View "Chris Ronnie v. U.S. Department of Labor" on Justia Law