Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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After DAI denied defendant's application to purchase an existing Subway franchise, defendant filed suit alleging that DAI discriminated against him on the basis of race. DAI then filed this action seeking to compel defendant to arbitrate, but the district court denied DAI's motion to compel. The Second Circuit agreed with the district court that whether or not an agreement is supported by adequate consideration is a question about contract formation for the court, not the arbitrator, to decide. However, the court held that the promise to arbitrate in the Franchise Application was supported by adequate consideration. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Doctor's Associates, Inc. v. Alemayehu" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed the district court's denial of Attending's motion to compel arbitration in an action under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law (NYLL). The court held that the arbitration clause mandated arbitration of the relevant claims and did not deny due process to Attending's employees. In this case, the union agreed to mandatory arbitration in the collective bargaining agreement on behalf of its members and the arbitration agreement here clearly and unmistakably encompassed the FLSA and NYLL claims. Furthermore, the challenged portion of the arbitration clause, which simply specified with whom arbitration will be conducted in accordance with established Supreme Court precedent, did not violate due process. View "Abdullayeva v. Attending Homecare Services, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's confirmation of an arbitration award under 9 U.S.C. 9 for petitioners and other individuals. This case involved a dispute between two groups of the Bobov Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn that agreed to arbitration before a rabbinical tribunal. The tribunal ruled that petitioners owned the "Bobov" trademark, and the district court confirmed the ruling. The court held that district courts should "look through" a 9 U.S.C. 4 petition to the underlying controversy to determine whether subject matter jurisdiction exists to confirm the arbitration award pursuant to 9 U.S.C. 9. The court held that the district court properly looked through the arbitration petition here to the underlying controversy to determine that it had subject matter jurisdiction. In this case, the district court properly turned aside respondent's non-jurisdictional arguments, found the petition "effectively" unopposed and that no issue of material fact precluded confirmation, and did not err in confirming the award. View "Landau v. Rheinold" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging violations of Vermont and federal law when the terms of their loan agreements provided for interest rates well in excess of caps imposed by Vermont law. Plaintiffs sought an injunction against tribal officers in charge of Plain Green and an award of money damages against other defendants. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss and motion to compel arbitration. The court held that tribal sovereign immunity did not bar this suit because plaintiffs may sue tribal officers under a theory analogous to Ex parte Young for prospective, injunctive relief based on violations of state and substantive federal law occurring off of tribal lands. The court also held that the arbitration clauses of the loan agreements were unenforceable and unconscionable. View "Gingras v. Think Finance, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of SquareTrade's motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action seeking to hold SquareTrade accountable for alleged violations of consumer protection laws. The court agreed with the district court and held that the arbitration provision did not become part of the contract because plaintiff did not have reasonable notice of and manifest his assent to it. In this case, the consumer was presented with several documents including the Pre-Sale T&C, the body of the subsequent email, and the Post-Sale T&C, none of them specifically identified as the "Service Contract" governing the purchase, and all containing different sets of terms. Furthermore, the prior course of dealing between the parties did not convince the court that plaintiff was on inquiry notice of the arbitration provision. View "Starke v. SquareTrade, Inc." on Justia Law

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General Re entered into a Reinsurance Agreement with Lincoln, which allowed General Re to increase premiums only if the increase was founded on a “change in anticipated mortality.”. If General Re exercised that right, Lincoln could “recapture” its life insurance policies, rather than pay increased premiums. General Re increased the premiums. Lincoln elected to arbitrate the rate increase, as provided for in the Agreement. The arbitration panel found that there was a change in the anticipated mortality so that General Re was entitled to increase premiums. The Final Award stated that if Lincoln chose to exercise its right to recapture: “All premium and claim transactions paid by one party to the other following the effective date of the recapture … shall be unwound.” The Award directed the parties to work together in calculating the amounts, and that any disagreement over the calculations should be submitted to the panel, which retained jurisdiction as "necessary to resolve any dispute over the calculation and payment of the amounts awarded.” Lincoln later wrote to the arbitral panel, set forth the parties’ dispute regarding the language of the Final Award regarding Unearned Premiums, and requested that the panel settle the issue. General Re argued the arbitrators lacked authority to reconsider and fundamentally change the methodology ordered in the Award. The panel issued a "Clarification," stating that the Award contained “ambiguities” and that both parties were reading the Award inconsistently with the Agreement. The district court confirmed the Clarification. The Second Circuit affirmed. The doctrine of functus officio, which limits the power of arbitrators to alter an award once the arbitrators have decided the issue, did not bar the panel from clarifying how the parties were to calculate an ambiguous award. View "General Re Life Corp. v. Lincoln National Life Insurance" on Justia Law

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ICA insures workers compensation claims. The Underwriters provide ICA with reinsurance under treaties, which require that disputes be adjudicated by a three-member arbitration panel: one party-appointed arbitrator for each party, and the neutral umpire. Each party bears the expense of its own arbitrator and is permitted to engage in ex parte discussion with its party-appointed arbitrators during discovery. Underwriters declined ICA's request for coverage. ICA demanded arbitration and appointed Campos as its arbitrator. At the organizational meeting, each arbitrator was asked to disclose pre-existing or concurrent relationships with a party. Campos disclaimed any appreciable link to ICA. Before the conclusion of the arbitration, Campos let pass several opportunities for additional disclosures. The district court subsequently found that Campos’s relationships with ICA’s representatives were considerably more extensive than disclosed. The district court vacated the panel's award of damages under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 10(a)(2). The Second Circuit vacated, holding that a party seeking to vacate an award must sustain a higher burden to prove evident partiality on the part of an arbitrator who is appointed by a party and who is expected to espouse the perspective of the appointing party. The district court weighed the conduct of ICA’s party-appointed arbitrator under the standard governing neutral arbitrators. An undisclosed relationship between a party and its party-appointed arbitrator constitutes evident partiality, such that vacatur is appropriate, if the relationship violates the contractual requirement of disinterestedness or prejudicially affects the award. View "Certain Underwriting Members of Lloyds of London v. Insurance Company of the Americas" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court's denial of Credit One's motion to compel arbitration on the basis of a clause in the cardholder agreement between Credit One and debtor. The court held that debtor's claim was not arbitrable because the dispute concerned a core bankruptcy proceeding and arbitrating the matter would present an inherent conflict with the goals of the Bankruptcy Code. In this case, the successful discharge of debt was not merely important to the Bankruptcy Code, it was its principal goal. The court explained that an attempt to coerce debtors to pay a discharged debt was thus an attempt to undo the effect of the discharge order and the bankruptcy proceeding itself. View "In re Orrin S. Anderson" on Justia Law

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Employees of Wells Fargo filed putative class arbitrations before the American Arbitration Association, seeking unpaid overtime from Wells Fargo. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Wells Fargo's petitions seeking to compel bilateral, rather than class, arbitration. The court assumed without deciding that the question whether an arbitration clause authorized class arbitration was a so-called "question of arbitrability" presumptively for a court, rather than an arbitrator, to decide. Therefore, applying Missouri's arbitration and contract law, the court held that the parties overcame this presumption by clearly and unmistakably expressing their intent to let an arbitrator decide whether they agreed to authorize class arbitration. View "Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC v. Sappington" on Justia Law

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Employees of Wells Fargo filed putative class arbitrations before the American Arbitration Association, seeking unpaid overtime from Wells Fargo. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Wells Fargo's petitions seeking to compel bilateral, rather than class, arbitration. The court assumed without deciding that the question whether an arbitration clause authorized class arbitration was a so-called "question of arbitrability" presumptively for a court, rather than an arbitrator, to decide. Therefore, applying Missouri's arbitration and contract law, the court held that the parties overcame this presumption by clearly and unmistakably expressing their intent to let an arbitrator decide whether they agreed to authorize class arbitration. View "Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC v. Sappington" on Justia Law