Tag Archives: Federal Arbitration Act

Supreme Court Upholds Class Waiver

First photograph of the U.S. Supreme Court, by...

First photograph of the U.S. Supreme Court, by Mathew Brady, 1869 (courtesy of National Archives). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a five-to-three decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a class waiver in American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, No. 12-133, 570 U.S. __ (June 20, 2013).  The Court considered whether a contractual waiver of class arbitration is enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act when the plaintiff’s cost of individually arbitrating a federal statutory claim exceeds the potential recovery.  The Court held that it was.

“Respondents argue that requiring them to litigate their claims individually—as they contracted to do—would contravene the policies of the antitrust laws. But the antitrust laws do not guarantee an affordable procedural path to the vindication of every claim.”  Slip Op. at 4.

Nor does congressional approval of Rule 23 establish an entitlement to class proceedings for the vindication of statutory rights. . . . One might respond, perhaps, that federal law secures a nonwaivable opportunity to vindicate federal policies by satisfying the procedural strictures of Rule 23 or invoking some other informal class mechanism in arbitration. But we have already rejected that proposition in AT&T Mobility, 563 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 9).

Slip Op. at 5.

Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, also rejected the argument that “Enforcing the waiver of class arbitration bars effective vindication, respondents contend, because they have no economic incentive to pursue their antitrust claims individually in arbitration.”  Id.

By CHARLES JUNG

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Second District Denies Arbitration: Holds That Plaintiff’s Allegations That All Defendants are Co-Agents Is Not Judicial Admission Because Defendant Sought to Reserve Argument on Same Issue

A Shack I Own In Eloy, Arizona // U Wouldn't W...

A Shack I Own In Eloy, Arizona // U Wouldn’t Wanna Live Here! (Photo credit: 666isMONEY ☮ ♥ & ☠)

On Monday, the Second District affirmed a trial court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration.  Barsegian v. Kessler & Kessler, et al., No. B237044, __ Cal.App.4th __ (2d Dist. Apr. 15, 2013).  Some defendants moved to compel arbitration, but the remaining defendants did not.  Slip Op. at 2.  The trial court denied on the grounds of waiver and the possibility of inconsistent rulings.

Moving defendants sought a reversal, arguing that plaintiff’s complaint alleged that all defendants are agents of one another, and that allegation is a binding judicial admission that gives the non-moving defendants the right to enforce the arbitration agreement.  They argued that the non-moving defendants were therefore not “third parties” to the arbitration agreement, within the meaning of C.C.P. section 1281.2(c), which provides that:

A party to the arbitration agreement is also a party to a pending court action or special proceeding with a third party, arising out of the same transaction or series of related transactions and there is a possibility of conflicting rulings on a common issue of law or fact.

Id. (emphasis supplied).  The court noted that:

[N]ot every factual allegation in a complaint automatically constitutes a judicial admission.  Otherwise, a plaintiff would conclusively establish the facts of the case by merely alleging them, and there would never be any disputed facts to be tried.  Rather, a judicial admission is ordinarily a factual allegation by one party that is admitted by the opposing party. The factual allegation is removed from the issues in the litigation because the parties agree as to its truth. Thus, facts to which adverse parties stipulate are judicially admitted. (See, e.g., In re Marriage of Hahn (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 1236, 1238-1239.) Similarly, in discovery when a party propounds requests for admission, any facts admitted by the responding party constitute judicial admissions. (See, e.g., Wilcox v. Birtwhistle (1999) 21 Cal.4th 973, 978-979; Code Civ. Proc., § 2033.410.) And when an answer admits certain factual allegations contained in a complaint or cross-complaint, those facts are likewise judicially admitted.2 (See, e.g., Valerio, supra, 103 Cal.App.4th at p. 1271.) A judicial admission is therefore conclusive both as to the admitting party and as to that party’s opponent. (4 Witkin, Cal. Procedure (5th ed. 2008) Pleading, § 454, p. 587.) Thus, if a factual allegation is treated as a judicial admission, then neither party may attempt to contradict it—the admitted fact is effectively conceded by both sides.

Here, the moving defendants sought to reserve the right to argue at arbitration that the allegation of mutual agency was false, and thus it was not conceded by both sides.

Although the Kessler defendants frame their argument using the term “judicial admission” and rely on case law concerning judicial admissions, their counsel confirmed at oral argument that they do not in fact wish to treat Barsegian‟s allegation of mutual agency as a judicial admission, because the Kessler defendants do wish to be able to contest the truth of that allegation, either in court or before an arbitrator. That is, the Kessler defendants wish to hold Barsegian to the mutual agency allegation only for purposes of the motion to compel arbitration, but, should they succeed in compelling arbitration on the basis of that allegation, they wish to retain the right to prove to the arbitrator that the allegation is false. That is not how judicial admissions operate.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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California Court of Appeal Validates Arbitration Agreement, Despite Class Waiver

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albanian car dealer (Photo credit: gabork)

Yesterday, in an opinion with implications for employment arbitration agreements, the California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District reversed a trial court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration.  See Vasquez v. Greene Motors, Inc., et al., Case No. A134829, __ Cal.App.4th __ (1st Dist. Mar. 27, 2013).  The arbitration agreement related to the purchase of a used car on credit from defendants.  This opinion is notable for approving an arbitration agreement, despite the presence of a class waiver and the requirement to arbitration “public” claims.  Id. at 25-26.

The Court described the clause as follows:

The reverse side, also dense with text, contains a number of provisions in separate boxes, many dealing with typical ―boilerplate legal matters, such as warranties, applicable law, and buyer and seller remedies. None of the provisions on the back page requires a buyer‘s signature. Toward the bottom of the page is the arbitration clause. The entire text of the clause is outlined in a black border. In all capital letters and bold type at the top is written, ―ARBITRATION CLAUSE [¶] PLEASE REVIEW— IMPORTANT—AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS. Immediately below, three numbered provisions, also in all capital letters, inform the buyer either party may request arbitration, this would prevent a court or class-wide proceeding, and it might limit discovery. Below these, in smaller type, are the actual terms of the clause. Pursuant to these terms, the arbitration may be conducted under the auspices of the National Arbitration Forum or the American Arbitration Association (AAA), at the election of the buyer, or by any other mutually agreeable organization; the initial arbitration will be conducted by a single arbitrator; it will occur in the federal district of the buyer‘s residence; the seller must advance up to $2,500 of the buyer‘s arbitration costs; the award is binding unless it is $0 or more than $100,000 or includes injunctive relief, in which 4 case either party can request a second arbitration before three arbitrators; and the use of self-help remedies and small claims court is exempted.

The Court validated the presence of a class action waiver and requirement to arbitrate public claims, finding the arguments against each “foreclosed” by Concepcion:

Finally, Vasquez argues the waiver of class action rights and the requirement to arbitrate ―public claims, such as the statutory violations alleged here, are impermissible. (See Discover Bank v. Superior Court (2005) 36 Cal.4th 148 (Discover Bank); Cruz v. PacifiCare Health Systems, Inc. (2003) 30 Cal.4th 303.) Both arguments have been foreclosed by the United States Supreme Court‘s decision in AT&T Mobility, LLC v. Concepcion (2011) 131 S.Ct. 1740 (Concepcion), which found preemption by the Federal Arbitration Act (9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.). (See Phillips v. Sprint PCS (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 758, 769; Nelsen v. Legacy Partners Residential, Inc. (2012) 207 26 Cal.App.4th 1115, 1136–1137.) Although Concepcion expressly considered only Discover Bank‘s judicially created ban on class action waivers as unconscionable, the same rationale would require a finding of preemption of the statutory ban on class action waivers in section 1751, which is similarly based on public policy.

You can read more about the opinion here.

Judges & Attorneys

Justice Margulies wrote the opinion for the court, and Justices Dondero and Banke concurred.  The trial court judge was Hon. Robert S. Bowers of Solano County Superior Court

Toschi, Sidran, Collins & Doyle, David R. Sidran and Thomas M. Crowell for Defendants and Appellants.

Rosner, Barry & Babbitt, Hallen D. Rosner, Christopher P. Barry and Angela J. Smith for Plaintiff and Respondent.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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California Court of Appeal for the First District Invalidates Arbitration Agreement Citing Lack of Mutuality

albanian car dealer

albanian car dealer (Photo credit: gabork)

In a ruling with implications for employment class action litigants, the California Court of Appeal struck down an arbitration agreement by a defendant in a putative class action, rejecting an argument that an unconscionability analysis that focuses on the lack of mutuality in an arbitration contract violates Concepcion. Natalini v. Import Motor, Inc., 213 Cal. App. 4th 587 (1st Dist., mod. February 5, 2013).

Relying on the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in AT & T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion,  563 U.S. –––– , 131 S.Ct. 1740, 179 L.Ed.2d 742 (2011), appellant car dealer argued that an “unconscionability analysis that focuses on the lack of mutuality or bilaterality in an arbitration provision is ‘an example of applying a generally applicable contract defense in a manner which disfavors arbitration.'”  The First District declined to read Concepcion so broadly, and noted that:

Recent California and federal district court decisions addressing arbitration provisions very similar to that in the present case and in the identical car purchase context have not read  Concepcion so broadly.  (See  Trompeter v. Ally Financial, Inc. (N.D.Cal., June 1, 2012, No. C–12–00392 CW) 2012 WL 1980894 [p. *8] [nonpub. opn.]  ( Trompeter );   Smith v. Americredit Financial Services, Inc. (S.D.Cal., Mar. 12, 2012, No. 09cv1076 DMS (BLM)) 2012 WL 834784 [pp. *2–*4] ( Smith );   Lau v. Mercedes–Benz USA, LLC (N.D.Cal., Jan. 31, 2012, No. CV 11–1940 MEJ) 2012 WL 370557 [pp. *6–*7] ( Lau );  see also  Ajamian v. CantorCO2e, L.P. (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 771, 804, fn. 18, 137 Cal.Rptr.3d 773.)   Continue reading

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Eastern District Finds Class-Wide Arbitration Agreement Unenforceable

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United States District Court for the Eastern District of California rejected defendant’s argument that Stolt-Nielson preempted Gentry, and the court held that a class-wide arbitration agreement was unenforceable as against an unpaid wage and overtime plaintiff.  Mathias v. Rent-A-Center, Inc., Civ. No. S-10-1476 LKK/KJM, 2010 WL 3715059 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 15, 2010) (slip op.).

Background

Ryan Mathias (“Mathias” or “plaintiff”) was employed by Rent-A-Center, Inc. (“RAC” or “defendant”) as an Assistant Manager, a position that was classified as a non-exempt or hourly position. Id. *1. As a condition of employment, plaintiff executed an arbitration agreement (“Agreement”), which Agreement contained a class action waiver and excluded arbitration private attorney general actions.  Id. Plaintiff filed a class action alleging eight claims arising from his employment with defendant, including claims for unpaid wages and overtime, unpaid rest and meal period premiums, and penalties arising from non-compliant wage statements under the California Labor Code and California Business and Professions Code. Id. Continue reading

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Second District Holds that Federal Choice of Law Provision in Arbitration Agreement Requires Application of Vacatur Provisions of FAA

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In a 3-0 opinion, the Second District held that while California state courts do not apply the FAA vactur provisions, because of the choice of law provision in the arbitration agreement, the trial judge was required to utilize the vacatur provisions of the FAA in passing on the amended petition to vacate the partial arbitration awards.

In Countrywide Financial Corp. v. Bundy, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2010 WL 3064481 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist. August 06, 2010), Defendants, Thomas Bundy, Misty Sanchez, Kevin Prevost and David Godina, appealed from an order vacating partial arbitration awards against plaintiffs, Countrywide Financial Corporation and Full Spectrum Lending, Inc.

The underlying case involved two arbitrations that were ultimately consolidated. The Bundy-Sanchez-Prevost arbitration demand sought classwide arbitration of claims for unpaid wages including incentive compensation, waiting penalties, costs and attorney fees pursuant to Labor Code section 200 et seq., Business and Professions Code section 17200 et seq., and common law principles.  The Godina arbitration demand alleged many of the same matters in terms of plaintiffs’ operations.

The arbitrator issued partial arbitration awards in favor of defendant.  Judge Elizabeth A. White vacated the partial arbitration awards on the ground the arbitrator committed a number of legal errors.  The Second District concluded that because of the unambiguous choice of law language in the agreements to arbitrate, “we must apply the vacatur provisions applicable before a United States District Court in a case subject to the Federal Arbitration Act. (9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq.)”  Applying the vacatur provisions of the Federal Arbitration Act, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding “no grounds permitted the partial awards to be vacated.”

The Court expressed doubt regarding whether the “manifest disregard of the law standard” survives Hall Street Associates L.L.C., but it chose to evaluate the interim awards under both title 9 United States Code section 10(a)(4) and the manifest disregard of the law test.  ; the course chosen by the Supreme Court in Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., supra, 559 U.S. at page —- [130 S.Ct. at page 1768].”  The Court described the manifest disregard standard as follows:

The first element is the arbitrator must know the governing rule of law and refuse to apply it or ignore it. The second element is that the law ignored by the arbitrator is well-defined, explicit, and clearly applicable to the case.

Presiding Justice Paul A. Turner wrote the opinion.  Hon. Sandy R. Kriegler and Hon. Richard M. Mosk concurred.

Defendants and appellants were represented by Caryl L. Boies, Sigrid S. McCawley and Lauren E. Fleischer of Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

Plaintiffs and Respondents were represented by Andrew M. Paley, Gregg A. Fisch and Jennifer Sloane Abramowitz of Seyfarth Shaw.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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