Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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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

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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