Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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Plaintiff Branches Neighborhood Corporation, a community association incorporated pursuant to the Davis-Stirling Common Interest Development Act, filed an arbitration claim against the association’s developer, defendant CalAtlantic Group, Inc., formerly known as Standard Pacific Corp. (Standard), for construction defects. The arbitrator granted summary judgment in Standard’s favor, concluding the association did not receive the consent of its members to file the claim until after the claim was filed, in violation of its declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The trial court subsequently denied the association’s motion to vacate the award, concluding the court had no power to review the arbitrator’s decision. Branches argued on appeal the trial court incorrectly denied its motion to vacate because the arbitrator exceeded its powers by abridging an unwaivable statutory right or public policy. Finding no such right or policy, the Court of Appeal determined the plain language of the CC&Rs controlled. The Court therefore affirmed the judgment. View "Branches Neighborhood Corp. v. CalAtlantic Group, Inc.," on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Alfredo Fuentes entered into a written agreement with defendant TMCSF, Inc., doing business as Riverside Harley-Davidson (Riverside), to buy a motorcycle. At the same time, he entered into a written agreement with Eaglemark Savings Bank (Eaglemark) to finance the purchase. The loan agreement included an arbitration clause; the purchase agreement did not. Fuentes then filed suit against Riverside, alleging that Riverside made various misrepresentations and violated various statutes in connection with the sale of the motorcycle. Riverside petitioned to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the petition. The Court of Appeal held Riverside was not entitled to compel arbitration because it was not a party to the arbitration clause, it was not acting in the capacity of an agent of a party to the arbitration clause, and it was not a third party beneficiary of the arbitration clause. Moreover, Fuentes was not equitably estopped to deny Riverside’s claimed right to compel arbitration. View "Fuentes v. TMCSF, Inc." on Justia Law

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Busick, who worked as a Massachusetts Instacart shopper and driver, filed a class action arbitration demand on behalf of herself and similarly situated Massachusetts shoppers and drivers, claiming that Instacart violated California law by classifying them as independent contractors rather than employees. The parties' Independent Contractor Agreement stated that disputes would be submitted to binding arbitration, applying California substantive law and “[a]ny action to review the arbitration award for legal error or to have it confirmed, corrected or vacated” would be decided under California law by a California state court. The parties submitted to the arbitrator the threshold issue whether the Agreement allowed Busick to seek certification of a claimant class within the arbitration. In a “Partial Final Award,” the arbitrator answered in the affirmative, stating that her ruling “determines only that [Busick] may move for class certification as part of the mandated arbitration. It does not address the appropriateness of such certification, nor the underlying claim.” Instacart filed a petition to vacate. The court of appeal affirmed that the superior court lacked jurisdiction. The California Arbitration Act allows a party to an arbitration to petition the superior court to confirm, correct or vacate an arbitrator’s “award,” an award that must be set out in writing and “include a determination of all the questions submitted to the arbitrators the decision of which is necessary in order to determine the controversy.” The arbitrator’s ruling was not an award. View "Maplebear v. Busick" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order denying a petition to vacate an arbitration award and granting a petition to confirm it. In this case, the arbitrator did not comply with several applicable disclosure requirements, which gave rise to multiple grounds for disqualification. The court held that the arbitrator was actually aware of at least one of the grounds for disqualification, and thus the resulting arbitration award was subject to vacatur. The court held that, by not disclosing the four pending arbitration with counsel for Chase, the arbitrator violated the continuing disclosure duties under Ethics standard 7(d). View "Honeycutt v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order denying Atria's petition to compel arbitration. The court held that the integration clause in an agreement the parties signed did not preclude proof of the arbitration agreement. The trial court made no findings regarding either substantive or procedural unconscionability because it found the integration clause to be dispositive. Therefore, the court remanded to the trial court with directions to consider other objections raised by respondents to the arbitration agreement. View "Williams v. Atria Las Posas" on Justia Law

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Smythe, a driver for both Uber and Lyft, claimed that Uber directed its drivers and others to use fake Lyft accounts to request rides, sending Lyft drivers on “wild goose chases.” He asserted claims for unfair business practices and intentional interference with prospective economic damage on behalf of a putative class of Lyft drivers. Uber moved to compel arbitration. Smythe signed agreements containing an arbitration provision that “applies to any dispute arising out of or related to this Agreement or termination of the Agreement … without limitation, to disputes arising out of or related to this Agreement and disputes arising out of or related to your relationship with the Company …. to disputes regarding any city, county, state or federal wage-hour law, trade secrets, unfair competition, compensation, breaks and rest periods, expense reimbursement, termination, harassment and claims arising under [several specific laws] and all other similar ... claims. This Agreement is intended to require arbitration of every claim or dispute that lawfully can be arbitrated.” The agreement's delegation clause states that the disputes subject to arbitration include "disputes arising out of or relating to interpretation or application of this Arbitration Provision, including the enforceability, revocability or validity .... All such matters shall be decided by an arbitrator and not by a court.” The court of appeal affirmed that Smythe’s allegations were beyond the scope of the arbitration agreement and that the delegation provision was unenforceable in this context. View "Smythe v. Uber Technologies, Inc." on Justia Law

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James Zenovic, doing business as James Zenovic Construction (Zenovic), appealed an order denying his petition to compel arbitration in an action filed by Von Becelaere Ventures, LLC (VBV). The trial court determined Zenovic waived his right to compel arbitration by filing a separate complaint in Orange County to foreclose on a mechanics lien without complying with provisions in Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.51 to preserve his arbitration rights. Zenovic contended the court misread and misapplied section 1281.5, which he contended should only have applied to the mechanics lien action and should not have operated to preclude arbitration of the separate action filed by VBV. The Court of Appeal disagreed: "section 1281.5 'means what it says: A party who files an action to enforce a mechanic's lien, but who does not at the same time request that the action be stayed pending arbitration, waives any right to arbitration.'" The Court, therefore, affirmed the order. View "Von Becelaere Ventures, LLC v. Zenovic" on Justia Law

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The Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters does not permit Chinese citizens to be served by mail, nor does it allow parties to set their own terms of service by contract. The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of a motion to set aside a default judgment against SinoType, a Chinese company. In this case, the trial court acknowledged that the service of the summons and petition had not complied with the Hague Service Convention, but concluded that the parties had privately agreed to accept service by mail. The court held, however, that SinoType was never validly served with process, and thus no personal jurisdiction by the court was obtained and the resulting judgment was void as violating fundamental due process. View "Rockefeller Technology Investments (Asia) III v. Changzhou Sinotype Technology Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment of the trial court denying a petition to vacate an arbitration award in a dispute involving Benaroya Pictures and Westside Corporation and Bruce Willis. Michael Benaroya contended that the trial court erred in confirming the arbitration award because the decision whether a nonsignatory to an arbitration agreement can be compelled to arbitrate is a matter solely within the authority of the trial court, not the arbitrator. The court agreed and held that while the relevant JAMS rule here permits an arbitrator to determine whom among signatories to an arbitration agreement are proper parties for the dispute to be arbitrated, the rule cannot (and does not) permit the arbitrator to determine whether a nonsignatory to the arbitration agreement can be compelled to arbitrate. The court held that the authority to decide that question resides, by law, solely with the trial court. The court remanded with directions to set aside its rulings denying Michael Benaroya and Benaroya's petition to vacate the award and granting Westside and Willis' petition to confirm; and enter new orders granting Michael Benaroya and Benaroya's petition to vacate the award as to Michael Benaroya, and granting Westside and Willis' petition to confirm the award only as to Benaroya. View "Benaroya v. Willis" on Justia Law

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Nielsen Contracting, Inc. and T&M Framing, Inc. (collectively Nielsen) sued several entities (defendants) alleging these entities fraudulently provided workers' compensation policies to Nielsen that were illegal and contained unconscionable terms. Defendants moved to compel arbitration and stay the litigation under an arbitration provision in one defendant's contract, titled Reinsurance Participation Agreement (RPA). Nielsen opposed the motion, asserting the arbitration provision and the provision's delegation clause were unlawful and void. After briefing and a hearing, the trial court agreed and denied defendants' motion. Defendants appealed, arguing: (1) the arbitrator, and not the court, should decide the validity of the RPA's arbitration agreement under the agreement's delegation clause; and (2) if the court properly determined it was the appropriate entity to decide the validity of the delegation and arbitration provisions, the court erred in concluding these provisions are not enforceable. The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions and affirmed. View "Nielsen Contracting, Inc. v. Applied Underwriters, Inc." on Justia Law