Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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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

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After Willie Robinson, Sr. died, his son and estate administrator filed suit against Pine Hills Health and Rehabilitation nursing home. Willie had entered into an arbitration agreement when he was admitted to Pine Hills and the district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss and compel arbitration. The court concluded that, under Arkansas law, the agreement is enforceable even though the National Arbitration Forum (NAF) is unavailable to serve as the arbitrator. Even assuming that all listed arbitration fora are unavailable, the arbitration agreement still requires the parties to arbitrate this dispute. In this case, the arbitration agreement does not say that the parties must either arbitrate before one of the five fora listed in the code or else litigate. The fact that NAF has stopped performing consumer arbitration does not prove that the code has been canceled, and plaintiff has not provided additional persuasive evidence to show cancellation. Finally, under Arkansas law, these allegations are enough for a court to conclude that the parties are closely related and that arbitration is appropriate. View "Robinson v. EOR-ARK, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Verizon, alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227, and the Iowa Debt Collection Practices Act, Iowa Code 537.7103 (2014), arising out of a billing dispute. Verizon moved to compel arbitration and plaintiffs filed a response consenting to arbitration. Before the court ruled on Verizon's motion to compel arbitration, plaintiff filed a Notice of Settlement. When the parties were unable to agree on a written settlement agreement, each filed a motion to enforce its version of the settlement. The court concluded that the district court did not err in deciding there was no binding pre-arbitration settlement; the district court did not clearly err in finding no enforceable settlement; and plaintiff Shultz had agreed to arbitration. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's order denying plaintiffs' motion to amend or correct the judgment. View "Schultz v. Verizon Wireless" on Justia Law

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League Commissioner Roger Goodell, during the 2014 football season, suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson indefinitely and fined Peterson a sum equivalent to six games' pay. Peterson’s suspension stemmed from his plea of nolo contendere in November 2014 to a charge of misdemeanor reckless assault on one of his children. After Peterson appealed his discipline to an arbitrator, the arbitrator affirmed the suspension and fine. The district court then granted Peterson's petition to vacate the arbitration decision and the League appealed. The Commissioner subsequently reinstated Peterson. At issue in this appeal is whether the League may collect the fine imposed by the Commissioner and upheld by the arbitrator. The court concluded that the parties bargained to be bound by the decision of the arbitrator, and the arbitrator acted within his authority. The court rejected the Association's remaining contentions that the arbitrator was "evidently partial' and that the arbitration was “fundamentally unfair.” Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s judgment vacating the arbitration decision and the court remanded with directions to dismiss the petition. View "NFL Players Ass'n v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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North Memorial and MNA, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), referred a grievance to arbitration. The district court subsequently granted in part MNA's motion to vacate the arbitral award. The arbitrator addressed whether North Memorial violated the CBA when it refused to regularly schedule the Grievant with no weekend work. The district court imposed a prospective remedy on the parties. The court concluded that the district court correctly concluded the arbitrator was without authority to issue a prospective remedy because his decision exceeded the scope of the submission presented to him by the parties. Reading the plain language of the issue as set out in the decision, the court did not believe that the arbitrator was even arguably acting within the scope of his authority. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Minnesota Nurses Association.v. North Memorial Health Care" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Yosemite, in state court for breach of contract and wrongful termination. After removal to federal court, and eight months after plaintiff filed his complaint, Yosemite moved to compel arbitration. The court affirmed the district court's denial of Yosemite's motion to arbitrate because Yosemite had waived its right to arbitration. In this case, although Yosemite knew of its existing right to arbitration, it acted inconsistently with this right by proceeding in court for more than eight months before asserting that right. Yosemite invoked the litigation machinery by removing the case to federal court, filing an answer, participating in a pretrial hearing, filing a scheduling report which recommended a trial date and discovery deadlines, and filing a motion to transfer venue. Yosemite also failed to do all it could reasonably have been expected to do to raise its right at the earliest feasible time. Finally, Yosemite's actions caused plaintiff prejudice. View "Messina v. North Central Distrib." on Justia Law

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Silgan and the Union challenge an arbitration award. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Silgan and the Union appealed. The court concluded that the question of validity and formation is not within the scope of the arbitration agreement. Because the arbitrator lacked authority to decide this issue, the district court did not err in vacating the award. Furthermore, the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Silgan and rescinding Article 36 where the mistake has resulted solely from the negligence or inattention of the party seeking relief, and the other party is without fault. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "Silgan Containers Corp. v. Sheet Metal Workers Int'l" on Justia Law

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The Zarecors invested $800,000 in the RMK Funds. Morgan Keegan was the lead underwriter for the Funds and was heavily involved in their operations. The Zarecors allege that Morgan Keegan omitted facts regarding policies and structure of the Funds; misrepresented the quality of the Funds to Zarecor; and “was intimately involved with” misrepresentations and omissions made in SEC filings, prospectuses, and other marketing materials. When the Funds collapsed in 2007, the Zarecors lost $718,577. Unrelated plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of a class that purchased mutual funds, including the RMK Funds, claiming that Morgan Keegan was liable as a “controlling person” under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, 15 U.S.C. 78t(a), and violations of the Securities Act of 1933. 15 U.S.C. 77k. The Zarecors were part of the putative class, but opted out. The class action was resolved by settlement. In 2009, the Zarecors filed a statement of claim in arbitration with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), alleging that Morgan Keegan had violated federal, New Jersey and Arkansas securities laws. The FINRA arbitration panel awarded them $541,000 in 2010, but a court vacated the award, holding that the dispute was not subject to arbitration under FINRA. The court dismissed their subsequent suit as untimely. The Eighth Circuit affirmed dismissal of claims under Arkansas law and federal law, but concluded that the claim under New Jersey law was timely. View "Zarecor v. Morgan Keegan & Co." on Justia Law

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AVR, an Israeli corporation, and Interton, a Minnesota corporation, produce hearing aid technology, and entered into an Agreement, giving Interton a 20 percent interest in AVR. During negotiations, they discussed integrating AVR's DFC technology into Interton's products, and Interton's purchase of AVR's W.C. components. The Agreement incorporated terms indicating that the Agreement would be governed by the laws of the State of Israel and that “Any dispute between the parties relating to (or arising out of) the provisions of this Agreement … will be referred exclusively to the decision of a single arbitrator … bound by Israeli substantive law.” AVR commenced arbitration in Israel. Interton participated, but believed that disputes concerning DFC and W.C. were separate and not subject to arbitration. The Israeli Supreme Court rejected Interton's objection to the scope of arbitration, citing the "relating to (or arising out of)" language. An Israeli arbitrator awarded AVR $2,675,000 on its DFC and W.C. claims, plus fees and expenses. After the award became final in Israel, in accordance with the 1958 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C. 201, AVR successfully petitioned the district court for recognition and enforcement in the US. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The Convention does not allow Interton to relitigate the scope of arbitration in an American court. View "AVR Commc'ns, Ltd. v. Am. Hearing Sys., Inc." on Justia Law