Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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The National Labor Relations Board sought enforcement of its Order finding that AEI violated the National Labor Relations Act by barring employees from pursuing class-action litigation or collective arbitration of work-related claims and by forbidding an AEI technician from discussing a proposed compensation change with his coworkers and by firing that technician for discussing the proposed change and complaining to management about it. AEI employees sign an agreement that “Disputes … relating to your employment” must, at the election of the employee or the company, be resolved “exclusively through binding arbitration” and that “you and AEI also agree that a claim may not be arbitrated as a class action, also called ‘representative’ or ‘collective’ actions, and that a claim may not otherwise be consolidated or joined with the claims of others.” AEI’s employee handbook prohibits “[u]nauthorized disclosure of business secrets or confidential business or customer information, including any compensation or employee salary information.” The Sixth Circuit enforced the order. An arbitration provision requiring employees covered by the Act individually to arbitrate all employment-related claims is not enforceable. The evidence was adequate to support the ALJ’s factual findings and conclusion that DeCommer was fired for engaging in protected, concerted activity View "National Labor Relations Board v. Alternative Entertainment, Inc." on Justia Law

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Hopkins died in a nursing home. Her estate sued the nursing home, Preferred Care, which asked a federal court to enforce the arbitration provision in Hopkins’ admissions agreement. The district court compelled arbitration, enjoined Hopkins from proceeding in the Kentucky state court action, and stayed the federal case until arbitration concluded. The Sixth Circuit dismissed an appeal as prohibited by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 16(a). The Act permits review of orders that interfere with arbitration, such as those “refusing” stays of federal proceedings in favor of arbitration and those “denying” petitions to enforce arbitration agreements, as well as interlocutory orders “granting, continuing, or modifying an injunction against an arbitration,” but prohibits appeals from other interlocutory orders that favor arbitration, such as those “granting” stays in favor of arbitration, “directing” or “compelling” arbitration, or “refusing” to enjoin an arbitration. View "Preferred Care of Delaware, Inc. v. Estate of Hopkins" on Justia Law

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The Michigan office of Alix, an international company, administers payroll and benefits for U.S. employees and is directly involved in U.S. hiring. In 2013, Alix hired Brewington, a Texas resident, for its Dallas Corporate Services team. The employment agreement provides that it “will be construed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Michigan” and states, “any dispute arising out of or in connection with any aspect of this Agreement and/or any termination of employment . . ., shall be exclusively subject to binding arbitration under the . . . American Arbitration Association . . . decision of the arbitrator shall be final and binding as to both parties.” In 2014, Brewington was terminated. He filed a demand for arbitration, asserting claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, on behalf of himself and a purported nationwide class of current, former, and potential Alix employees. The Michigan district court ruled that Brewington was precluded from pursuing arbitration claims on behalf of any purported class. The Sixth Circuit affirmed that court’s refusal to dismiss, finding that Brewington had sufficient contacts with Michigan to establish personal jurisdiction, and upheld summary judgment in favor of Alix. An agreement must expressly include the possibility of classwide arbitration to indicate that the parties agreed to it. This clause is silent on the issue and is limited to claims concerning “this Agreement,” as opposed to other agreements. It refers to “both parties.” View "AlixPartners, LLP v. Brewington" on Justia Law

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Samaan, a General Dynamics engineer since 1977, believed that the company was using the wrong shock-and-vibration testing methods on Stryker armored vehicles developed for use by the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, which led, in turn, to submission of purportedly erroneous reports detailing the shock-and-vibration specifications for the vehicles. Samaan alleged that from 2004-2010 he repeatedly raised his concerns and eventually “filed a formal claim of data misrepresentation, fraud, and retaliation” with the Human Resources Department in 2010. General Dynamics allegedly gave Samaan his first poor performance evaluation in 2011, with a statement that his evaluation “would improve if he would ‘forget’ about the testing misrepresentation and fraud.” Samaan eventually took his concerns to the Army. He was suspended without pay, then filed suit, alleging retaliation, and resigned. An arbitrator, required by Samaan’s employment agreement, issued an award in favor of the Company, which the district court declined to vacate. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the procedures employed during arbitration and stating that the Federal Arbitration Act does not allow for vacatur based on the fulfillment of moral and ethical obligations. View "Samaan v. Gen. Dynamics Land Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2011, Mr. Nichols was admitted to the Richmond, Kentucky, Kenwood Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. He signed an agreement that states that it applies to “any and all disputes arising out of or in any way relating to this Agreement” including “wrongful death.” It is governed by “The Kentucky Uniform Arbitration Act. . . . If for any reason there is a finding that Kentucky law cannot support the enforcement of this Agreement, then the Parties agree to resolve their disputes by arbitration . . . pursuant to the [FAA].” It binds Nichols and all persons with claims through or on behalf of him. After Nichols dies, his estate sued, asserting wrongful death and other state law claims. The district court declined to compel arbitration of the wrongful-death claim, but stayed the case until arbitration of the other claims was complete. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, relying on state law precedent, not preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act, that a wrongful-death claim is “independent” of any claims held by a decedent and constitutes a “distinct interest in a property right that belongs only to the statutorily-designated beneficiaries.” Decedents have no “cognizable legal rights” in that claim. View "Richmond Health Facilities v. Nichols" on Justia Law

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Under a consent decree in a lawsuit relating to employee retirement benefits, Navistar contributes to a Supplemental Benefit Trust managed by SBC. The size of its contributions is determined by a formula based on Navistar’s economic performance. Navistar must regularly provide data to the SBC to permit it to evaluate whether Navistar is applying the formula correctly. The agreement provides for arbitration before an accounting firm if SBC disputes the “information or calculations” Navistar provides. SBC claimed that Navistar was improperly classifying aspects of its business activities and structuring its business to evade its profit-sharing obligations under the agreement. Navistar claimed that under the accountant arbitration mechanism, which applies to disputes over the “information or calculations” provided by Navistar, SBC’s claims were subject to arbitration. The district court held that the claims were subject to arbitration, but that Navistar’s conduct before and during litigation waived its right to arbitrate the claims. The Sixth Circuit held that the claims were subject to arbitration and that Navistar had not waived its right. While Navistar may bear some responsibility for the long duration of its dispute with the SBC, its behavior with regard to arbitration does not satisfy the particular elements of waiver. View "Supplemental Benefit Comm. v. Navistar, Inc." on Justia Law

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Section 747 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 created an arbitration procedure for automobile dealerships to seek continuation or reinstatement of franchise agreements that had been terminated by Chrysler during bankruptcy proceedings, with the approval of the bankruptcy court. After an arbitral decision favoring the dealer, the manufacturer was required to provide the dealer a “customary and usual letter of intent” to enter into a sales and service agreement. After arbitrations, a trial was held to determine whether Chrysler supplied each prevailing dealer with such a letter. Most of the rejected dealers reached settlements with New Chrysler. The court determined that the remaining dealers had received “customary and usual” letters. The Sixth Circuit agreed that section 747 does not constitute an unconstitutional legislative reversal of a federal court judgment and that the only relief it provides to successful dealers is the issuance of a letter of intent. The letters at issue were “customary and usual,” except one contractual provision that required reversal. Contrary to the district court’s conclusion application Michigan and Nevada state dealer acts is preempted by section 747, because those acts provide for redetermination of factors directly addressed in federally-mandated arbitrations closely related to a major federal bailout. View "Chrysler Grp. LLC v. Sowell Auto., Inc." on Justia Law

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After losing millions of dollars because of delays and coordination failures in building a hospital, W.J. O’Neil Company sued its construction manager in state court. In subsequent arbitration, the architect and a design subcontractor (defendants) were added to the arbitration on indemnity claims. In the arbitration, O’Neil did not formally assert claims against those defendants, but O’Neil’s claims against its construction manager arose from the defendants’ defective and inadequate design of the hospital. O’Neil won the arbitration against its construction manager, but the construction manager did not establish its indemnity claims, so the defendants were not held liable. No party sought judicial confirmation or review of the arbitration award. O’Neil then sued the defendants in federal court. The district court dismissed, finding the claims barred by Michigan’s doctrine of res judicata. The Sixth Circuit reversed. An arbitration award cannot bar a claim that the arbitrator lacked authority to decide, and an arbitrator lacks authority to decide a claim that the parties did not agree to arbitrate. O’Neil did not agree to arbitrate the claims at issue. View "W.J. O'Neil Co. v. Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Randolph-Sheppard Act, 20 U.S.C. 107–107e, gives blind persons a priority in winning contracts to operate vending facilities on federal properties. Fort Campbell, Kentucky, operates a cafeteria for its soldiers. For about 20 years, Kentucky’s Office for the Blind (OFB) has helped blind vendors apply for and win the base’s contracts for various services. In 2012, the Army, the federal entity that operates Fort Campbell, published a solicitation, asking for bids to provide dining-facility-attendant services. Rather than doing so under the Act, as it had before, the Army issued this solicitation as a set aside for Small Business Administration Historically Underutilized Business Zones. OFB, representing its blind vendor, filed for arbitration under the Act, and, days later, filed suit, seeking to prevent the Army from awarding the contract. The district court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider a request for a preliminary injunction. The Sixth Circuit vacated. OFB’s failure to seek and complete arbitration does not deprive the federal courts of jurisdiction. View "Commonwealth of Kentucky v. United States" on Justia Law

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A contract for reinsurance between National and Meadowbrook required both parties to submit any reinsurance disputes to a three-member arbitration panel to be comprised of “two arbitrators and an umpire” who were “active or retired disinterested officials of the insurance or reinsurance companies, or Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, not under the control of either party.” After Meadowbrook initiated arbitration, National named Rosen and Meadowbrook named Schlaybaugh as arbitrators. They deadlocked in selecting an umpire, exchanged slates of candidates, and chose Greene, who disclosed that he was a personal friend of Rosen and that both were members of the reinsurance industry group The panel adopted orders that, “Ex parte communications with any member of the Panel shall cease upon the filing of the parties’ initial pre-hearing briefs.” The panel issued a unanimous Interim Final Award, resolving issues of liability in favor of National, but did not calculate a final damages award at that time. Rosen resumed ex parte communications and National disclosed those communications. After the panel rejected Meadowbrook’s submissions concerning damages, Meadowbrook claimed that it had disenfranchised Schlaybaugh. National claimed that a swift decision was needed, that Schlaybaugh was on vacation and could not be reached, and that his participation would have made no difference. The district court enjoined proceedings. The Sixth Circuit reversed, noting that judicial review of arbitral decisions is narrow and deferential. View "Savers Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co." on Justia Law