Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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Plaintiffs filed suit against GFA, alleging that GFA solicited charitable donations to benefit the poorest of the poor while covertly diverting the money to a multi-million dollar personal empire. The district court denied GFA's motion to compel arbitration. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court interpreted the scope of the arbitration agreements too narrowly, reasoning that, since none of the mission statements or pledges found in the agreements reach donations made to the church, the dispute was entirely unrelated to the parties' agreements. The court held that, even if the agreements did not reach donations made to GFA, the district court erred because the arbitration agreements did not apply only to disputes arising out of the agreements. Rather, they applied by their terms to any and all disputes of any kind arising out of the relationship between plaintiffs and GFA. Because the court could not say with positive assurance that the donations plaintiffs made to GFA did not arise out of that relationship, the court reversed and remanded. View "Dickson v. Gospel for ASIA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment confirming an arbitrator's award of attorney's fees and expenses to Beumer. The court held that the arbitrator acted within the scope of his authority and did not violate the arbitration agreement's provision when he determined that attorneys' fees were "costs" and not "loss" under Missouri law. Therefore, these costs were not subject to the limitation of liability. The court held that ProEnergy failed to demonstrate grounds to vacate the arbitration award under 9 U.S.C. 10, and denied Beumer's motion for sanctions. View "Beumer Corp. v. ProEnergy Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs brought a class action against Bluestem, alleging that the company engaged in unscrupulous business practices in violation of federal and state laws. The Eighth Circuit agreed with Bluestem that all of plaintiffs' claims fell within the scope of the arbitration clause. The court held that the agreements contained broad arbitration clauses and plaintiffs' state-law usury, state and federal financial disclosure and state-law unjust enrichment claims all fell within the scope of the arbitration agreements. Accordingly, the court remanded with directions to order arbitration on those claims. View "Parm v. Bluestem Brands, Inc." on Justia Law

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The trustee for the Laudine L. Ploetz, 1985 Trust filed suit against Morgan Stanley, alleging that it had transferred funds from the account without authorization. The trustee later moved the district court to vacate the arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) after she learned that the chairperson of the arbitration panel had undisclosed service in a case years earlier involving Morgan Stanley. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the trustee's motion to vacate the arbitration, holding that the trustee did not warrant relief from the award under any of the court's evident-partiality standards since she did not explain how the chairperson's undisclosed mediation of the previous case created even an impression of possible bias. The court held that the mere fact that non-disclosure of the past service violated FINRA rules governing arbitration did not provide the district court with any basis to conclude he was evidently partial. Furthermore, arbitrator misbehavior that results only in the violation of a party's rights under FINRA rules was not significant enough to merit relief under 9 U.S.C. Sec. 10(a)(3) unless the party was deprived of a fair hearing. View "Ploetz v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC" on Justia Law

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The City filed suit against Baseline, alleging contract, negligence and professional malpractice, fraud, and negligent misrepresentation. The City's claims stemmed from a contract with Baseline, in which Baseline would assist with the permitting, design, and construction of a water treatment plant for the City. The Eighth Circuit held that, to the extent an arbitration provision was like a forum-selection clause, the motion seeking to compel arbitration was not properly construed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3); just as a forum selection clause has no bearing on the issue of whether venue was wrong or improper, an arbitration agreement has no relevance to the question of whether a given case satisfied constitutional or statutory definitions of jurisdiction; contrary to Baseline's contention, the July 2009 Contract's arbitration clause did not strip the federal courts of jurisdiction; and therefore the district court erred in construing the motion as a Rule 12(b)(1) challenge to subject matter jurisdiction. The court agreed with the City that Baseline's motion was properly analyzed under either Rule 12(b)(6) or Rule 56. Under both rules, the summary judgment standard applied. The court reversed and remanded for summary judgment proceedings in the district court. View "City of Benkelman, NE v. Baseline Engineering Corp." on Justia Law

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A court must decide whether an arbitration agreement authorizes class arbitration. The Eighth Circuit held that the question of class arbitration belongs with the courts as a substantive question of arbitrability; questions concerning "whether the parties have submitted a particular dispute to arbitration" presumptively lie with the court; parties to an agreement may nonetheless commit the question to an arbitrator; and when dealing with class arbitration, the court sought clear and unmistakable evidence of an agreement to arbitrate the particular question of class arbitration. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's order denying Catamaran's motion for summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. On remand, the district court shall determine whether such a "contractual basis" for class arbitration exists in the agreements between Catamaran and the pharmacies. View "Catamaran Corp. v. Towncrest Pharmacy" on Justia Law

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After Zetor filed suit against Ridgeway for trademark infringement, Ridgeway sought to enforce an arbitration clause in a prior settlement agreement between the parties. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's motion denying Ridgeway's motion to compel arbitration, holding that Zetor's claims have no relation to the terms of the settlement agreement; Zetor's claims rest on independent trademark and copyright grounds, which have no relation to the terms of the agreement and in no way depend on its existence; and the plain language of the contract did not apply to wholly independent claims arising several years later. View "Zetor North America, Inc. v. Ridgeway Enterprises" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order compelling arbitration and dismissing plaintiff's case without prejudice where he alleged violations of minimum wage laws, as well as fraud. In this case, plaintiff signed a Volunteer Release, Waiver and Indemnification Agreement when he volunteered as a concession worker for a fundraiser. The court held that the agreement was not unconscionable under Missouri law because the agreement was easy to understand, with no evidence that it was non-negotiable. Furthermore, the agreement did not lack consideration where the consideration was that plaintiff was giving up his right to sue in return for his opportunity to volunteer and DNCS's contribution to Washington University, something neither was legally bound to do. Finally, the underlying factual allegations were covered by the arbitration provision. View "Leonard v. Delaware North Companies Sport Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to uphold an arbitration award reinstating an employee to his job as a security officer at Entergy's nuclear power plant. The employee has chronic folliculitis, and Entergy thought this would keep him from shaving often enough to properly wear a full-face gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. The arbitrator ordered reinstatement because Entergy never fit-tested the employee with facial hair before concluding that it disqualified him from the position. The Eighth Circuit held that the arbitrator's order requiring that the employee be reinstated with backpay and subject to an acceptable respirator or a reasonable accommodation was not against public policy nor exceeded the arbitrator's authority. In this case, the arbitrator did not stray outside his authority to interpret and apply the contract, and the award was within the range of possibilities Entergy bargained for. View "Entergy Operations v. United Government Security Officers" on Justia Law

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General Mills terminated employees and offered them benefits in exchange for releasing all Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. 626(f)(1), claims and arbitrating release-related disputes. Plaintiffs, 33 employees who signed releases, subsequently filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the releases were not "knowing and voluntary." Plaintiffs also raised collective and individual ADEA claims. The district court denied General Mills' motion to compel arbitration. The court rejected plaintiffs' claim that the agreement to arbitrate applies only to claims "relating to" the release of claims, and their substantive ADEA claims are not related to the release of claims. Rather, the court found that the agreements' "relating to" sentence showed the parties' intent to arbitrate both disputes about the release and substantive ADEA claims. Therefore, the ADEA claims were covered by the agreements. The court explained that, absent a contrary congressional command, General Mills can compel employees who signed the agreements to arbitrate their ADEA claims. In this case, the court concluded that no "contrary congressional command" overrides the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., mandate to enforce the parties' agreement to arbitrate substantive ADEA claims. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "McLeod v. General Mills, Inc." on Justia Law