Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Walmart's motion to compel arbitration in an action brought by a customer, seeking to represent a nationwide class of disgruntled gift-card purchasers in Missouri state court. Over the next fifteen months after the complaint was filed, Walmart gave no hint that it was interested in arbitration. Instead, it immediately removed the case to federal district court and filed a motion to dismiss all counts. After plaintiff filed an amended complaint, Walmart once again moved to dismiss on multiple grounds. Walmart subsequently moved to compel arbitration, which the district court refused. The court agreed with the district court, concluding that Walmart had taken several actions that substantially invoked the litigation machinery and that were inconsistent with its right to arbitrate and Walmart's delay prejudiced plaintiff and would likely result in a duplication of efforts. View "McCoy v. Walmart, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit concluded that HomeServices waived its right to arbitrate after actively litigating this case in federal court for nearly a year. The court also concluded that, under circuit precedent, the issue of whether a party has decided to substantially invoke the litigation machinery is a question for the court, rather than the arbitrator, to answer. In this case, the company failed to do all it could reasonably have been expected to do to make the earliest feasible determination of whether to proceed judicially or by arbitration. View "Sitzer v. National Association of Realtors" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed an arbitration award that reinstated a member of the union to her former position after she was discharged by the company. The court concluded that the parties agreement authorized the arbitrator to determine whether there has been a violation of the parties' agreement within the allegations set forth in the grievance. In this case, the parties bargained for the arbitrator's interpretation of the agreement's just cause provision and the provision does not specify that the same just cause is sufficient to justify all types of adverse action.The court also concluded that the arbitrator's award drew its essence from the parties' agreement. Finally, the court concluded that the record does not establish that the employee committed abuse as defined by the cited statutes, or that allowing her to return to work after a suspension violates public policy. View "WM Crittenden Operations, LLC v. United Food and Commercial Workers" on Justia Law

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After an arbitration panel issued its award in a dispute between J.B. Hunt and BNSF, the district court confirmed the award but denied Hunt's request for additional relief.The Eighth Circuit focused on the substance of Hunt's request for additional relief rather than how Hunt captioned it, concluding that the request was not premature. The court also concluded that, assuming Hunt's interpretation of the award is correct, it was entitled to a declaratory judgment to that effect once the district court had confirmed the award. BNSF's argument to the contrary is unavailing. Although the court agreed with BNSF that it need not reach the merits of the parties' dispute about the interpretation of the award to conclude that the district court properly denied Hunt's request for "enforcement" insofar as it was a request for an order of specific performance, the court did not need to reach the merits of the parties' dispute about the interpretation of the award to determine whether the district court properly denied Hunt's request for "enforcement" insofar as it was a request for a declaratory judgment. Finally, the court concluded that the parties' arguments expose a genuine ambiguity in the award, describing BNSF's obligations under the award. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc. v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Missouri resident, filed suit in state court against her former employer, Ferrellgas, a propane supplier, as well as James Ferrell and Pamela Brueckmann, Kansas residents and employees and officers of Ferrellgas. Plaintiff alleged gender discrimination claims under the Missouri Human Rights Act against Ferrellgas (Counts I and II), and tort claims against all defendants (Counts IIIVI). After removal to the district court, the district court granted defendants' motion to compel arbitration in part.The Eighth Circuit reversed, concluding that the district court erred in concluding that no language in plaintiff's employment agreement suggested that she consented to arbitrate tort claims arising from actions which predated her employment. The court explained that, though plaintiff's claims are based on alleged misrepresentations and omissions made before and at the time she accepted employment, they are subject to arbitration because they arise out of and relate to the resulting employee agreement and employee relationship. The court also concluded that Ferrell and Brueckmann, officers and agents of Ferrellgas who were not parties to the Employee Agreement, may enforce the arbitration clause. The court concluded that a signatory plaintiff cannot avoid arbitration when she treated signatory and non-signatory defendants as a single unit. In this case, each of plaintiff's tort claims against defendants is a single one that should be referred in its entirety to arbitration. View "Morgan v. Ferrell" on Justia Law

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After New Adesta initiated an arbitration against the guarantors of certain indemnification obligations, three of the guarantors, brought an action in Nebraska state court seeking a declaration that New Adesta's arbitral claims were released and discharged in a settlement agreement. New Adesta removed to federal court and moved to compel arbitration and to dismiss guarantors' case. The district court granted New Adesta's motion in its entirety.The Eighth Circuit concluded that the Settlement Agreement neither abrogated, modified, nor terminated the arbitration clauses set forth in the Purchase Agreement. In this case, the underlying issue, indemnification for the NYSTA work, is not a matter that was addressed in the Settlement Agreement, the Nebraska action, or the Illinois action. The court explained that, while the Federal Arbitration Act generally requires a federal district court to stay an action pending an arbitration, rather than to dismiss it, district courts may, in their discretion, dismiss an action rather than stay it where it is clear the entire controversy between the parties will be resolved by arbitration. In this case, the court concluded that the parties have a valid agreement to arbitrate the claims at issue, which fall within the scope of the arbitration clauses. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Sommerfeld v. Adesta, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants Sachse, Ameriprise, and individual Ameriprise officers, alleging violations of federal securities law. Plaintiff also sought to represent other Sachse and Ameriprise clients in a class action. Defendants filed motions to strike plaintiff's class action allegations and to compel arbitration, which the district court denied.The Eighth Circuit reversed and remanded for entry of an order striking plaintiff's class action allegations and compelling arbitration. The court concluded that it has appellate jurisdiction to review the district court's denial of defendants' motions to strike class action allegations because this denial was contained in an order reviewable under 9 U.S.C. 16(a)(1)(B). The court also concluded that defendants have not waived their right to arbitrate by moving to strike plaintiff's class action allegations at the same time they moved to compel arbitration where the action was not inconsistent with their right to arbitrate and did not substantially invoke the litigation machinery. On the merits, the court concluded that a valid arbitration clause exists and that it encompasses the dispute between the parties. In this case, the court agreed with defendants that the arbitration clause was valid because it was supported by mutual assent, was supported by consideration, and was not unconscionable. View "Donelson v. Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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Ohio law allows nonsignatory agents to compel arbitration under general principles of contract and agency law. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Navient's motion to compel arbitration against plaintiff. The court disagreed with the district court's finding that the relevant arbitration clause does not include Navient as a party and so Navient cannot compel arbitration. Rather, the court held that Ohio law permits plaintiff to compel arbitration as a nonsignatory agent of the holder of the loan. The court also held that Ohio's rule of alternate estoppel prevents plaintiff from disavowing the arbitration clause because his claim arises out of the same contract. Therefore, plaintiff is estopped from avoiding the arbitration clause because his claims are integrally intertwined with the contract containing the agreement to arbitrate. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Neal v. Navient Solutions, LLC" on Justia Law