Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court's order to compel arbitration and dismiss without prejudice a series of lawsuits against several sports goods e-commerce companies (the defendants). The lawsuits were brought by several plaintiffs, who were consumers that purchased goods online from the defendants and had their personal information stolen during a data breach on the defendants' websites. The defendants moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration provision in their terms of use. The appellate court held that the plaintiffs had sufficient notice of the arbitration provision and that the arbitration clause was not invalid under California law, was not unconscionable, and did not prohibit public injunctive relief. Furthermore, the parties agreed to delegate the question of arbitrability to an arbitrator according to the commercial rules and procedures of JAMS, a private alternative dispute resolution provider. View "PATRICK V. RUNNING WAREHOUSE, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this putative class action lawsuit, Maria Johnson, a former employee of Lowe's Home Centers, LLC, brought claims on behalf of herself and other Lowe's employees under California's Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) for alleged violations of the California Labor Code. Johnson had signed a pre-dispute employment contract that included an arbitration clause.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision to compel arbitration of Johnson's individual PAGA claim, as a valid arbitration agreement existed and the dispute fell within its scope. However, the district court's dismissal of Johnson's non-individual PAGA claims was vacated. The lower court had based its decision on the U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of PAGA in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, which was subsequently corrected by the California Supreme Court in Adolph v. Uber Techs., Inc. The state court held that a PAGA plaintiff could arbitrate their individual PAGA claim while also maintaining their non-individual PAGA claims in court. The case was remanded to the district court to apply this interpretation of California law. The Ninth Circuit rejected Lowe's argument that Adolph was inconsistent with Viking River. View "JOHNSON V. LOWE'S HOME CENTERS, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a dispute between Voltage Pictures, LLC (Voltage) and Gussi S.A. de C.V. (Gussi SA) regarding their Distribution and License Agreement (DLA), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court for the Central District of California's decision to confirm an arbitral award in favor of Voltage. The court held that the district court had jurisdiction under Section 203 of Chapter 2 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331, despite an incorrect initial assertion of diversity jurisdiction. The court also ruled that Federal procedural law, not California law, governed the service of Voltage's notice of motion to confirm the arbitral award. It held that Voltage had sufficiently served the notice by mailing the motion papers to Gussi SA's counsel. Lastly, the court held that the district court had not erred in refusing to extend comity to an alleged Mexican court order enjoining Voltage from seeking to confirm the award in the United States, as Gussi SA had not certified the genuineness of the purported Mexican court order or its translation. View "VOLTAGE PICTURES, LLC V. GUSSI, S.A. DE C.V." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's approval of a class action settlement between Tinder and Lisa Kim, a user of the dating app, ruling that Kim was not an adequate class representative. This class action lawsuit against Tinder was over its former age-based pricing model. Kim had agreed to arbitration, unlike over 7,000 potential members of the class, creating a fundamental conflict of interest that violated Rule 23(a)(4). The court found that Kim had a strong interest in settling her claim as she had no chance of going to trial, unlike the other members. The court also noted that Kim failed to vigorously litigate the case on behalf of the class, with her approach to opposing Tinder’s motion to compel arbitration not suggesting vigor. The court remanded the case for consideration of Kim's individual action against Tinder. View "KIM V. TINDER, INC." on Justia Law

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Abraham Bielski, a user of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, brought a lawsuit alleging that Coinbase failed to investigate the unauthorized transfer of funds from his account. Coinbase attempted to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement in its User Agreement, which included a delegation provision stating that any dispute arising out of the agreement, including enforceability, should be decided by an arbitrator, not a court. Bielski argued that the delegation provision and arbitration agreement were unenforceable due to unconscionability. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a party must specifically reference and challenge the delegation provision for a court to consider it, and that a party may use the same arguments to challenge both the delegation provision and the arbitration agreement, as long as they articulate why the argument invalidates each specific provision. The court also held that when evaluating whether a delegation provision is unconscionable under California law, a court must interpret the provision in the context of the entire agreement, which may require examining the underlying agreement. After analyzing the Coinbase delegation provision in context, the court determined that it was not unconscionable. The court reversed the district court’s order denying Coinbase’s motion to compel arbitration. View "BIELSKI V. COINBASE, INC." on Justia Law

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The district court appointed a receiver to claw back profits received by investors in a Ponzi scheme that was the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action. The receiver filed suit against certain investors, alleging fraudulent transfers from the receivership entities to the investors. The district court concluded that the receiver was bound by arbitration agreements signed by the receivership company, which was the instrument of the Ponzi scheme. The district court relied on Kirkland v. Rune.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order denying a motion to compel arbitration. The panel held that EPD did not control because it addressed whether a bankruptcy trustee, not a receiver, was bound by an arbitration agreement. Unlike under bankruptcy law, there was no explicit statute here establishing that the receiver was acting on behalf of the receivership entity’s creditors. The panel held that a receiver acts on behalf of the receivership entity, not defrauded creditors, and thus can be bound by an agreement signed by that entity. But here, even applying that rule, it was unclear whether the receiver was bound by the agreements at issue. The panel remanded for the district court to consider whether the defendant investors met their burden of establishing that the fraudulent transfer claims arose out of agreements with the receivership entity, whether the investors were parties to the agreements and any other remaining arbitrability issues. View "GEOFF WINKLER V. THOMAS MCCLOSKEY, JR., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued Defendant PeopleConnect, Inc., alleging that it violated his right of publicity by using his photo on its website, Classmates.com. PeopleConnect responded by seeking two forms of relief. First, it sought to compel Plaintiff to arbitrate his claims under section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Second, it sought to dismiss Plaintiff’s complaint, arguing in relevant part that it was entitled to section 230 immunity under the Communications Decency Act. In a 26-page document labeled a single “order,” the district court denied both requests for relief. PeopleConnect filed an interlocutory appeal, attempting to challenge both denials by relying on the FAA as the basis for interlocutory appellate jurisdiction.   The Ninth Circuit dismissed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. The panel determined that it had jurisdiction to review the district court’s order denying the motion to compel arbitration. The panel held that two orders do not become one “order” for the purposes of § 16(a) solely by virtue of the fact that they appear in the same document. Notwithstanding its label as a single “order,” the document clearly contained multiple orders. Because Section 16(a) grants jurisdiction to review only an order denying a motion to compel arbitration, and because the district court’s denial of the motion to dismiss was not part of such an order, the panel lacked jurisdiction to review it. View "JOHN BOSHEARS V. PEOPLECONNECT, INC." on Justia Law

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Discover Bank seeks to compel Plaintiff to arbitrate her claims that Discover Bank unlawfully discriminated against her based on citizenship and immigration status when it denied her application for a consolidation loan for her student loan. Discover Bank argues that two arbitration agreements—one Plaintiff made in connection with the student loan and one she made in connection with the application for the consolidation loan—require arbitration here. The district court declined to compel arbitration, finding that neither agreement required arbitration.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order declining to compel Plaintiff to arbitrate. The panel held that Discover Bank was judicially estopped from arguing that Perez did not opt out of the Discover Bank agreement. The panel determined that Discover Bank’s past position clearly contradicted its current position that the opt-out would only apply to Plaintiff’s future discrimination claims, Discover Bank persuaded the court to accept its previous position, and Discover Bank would derive an unfair advantage absent estoppel. Citing Revitch v. DIRECTV, LLC, 977 F.3d 713 (9th Cir. 2020), the panel further held that Perez and Discover Bank never formed an agreement to arbitrate her discrimination claims involving her application for a consolidation loan via the Citibank agreement. View "ILIANA PEREZ, ET AL V. DISCOVER BANK" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant TA Operating LLC (TA) appeals the district court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration of employment-related claims brought by Plaintiff.   The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s order denying Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration. The panel held that the district court erred in finding that the arbitration agreement’s delegation clause was unenforceable because it was substantively unconscionable. The district court properly considered whether an “unrelated” jury waiver provision made the delegation clause unconscionable. Here, though, the jury waiver provision applied only if the Agreement were determined to be unenforceable. As such, it could not support the conclusion that an agreement to arbitrate enforceability (i.e., the delegation clause) was unenforceable. View "KENNETH HOLLEY-GALLEGLY V. TA OPERATING, LLC" on Justia Law

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This is a putative class action by three truck drivers against their employer, Domino’s Pizza. The court previously affirmed the district court’s denial of Domino’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that because the drivers were a “class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce,” their claims were exempted from the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) by 9 U.S.C. Section 1.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Domino Pizza’s motion to compel arbitration in a putative class action brought by three Domino truck drivers, alleging violations of California labor law. The panel stated that its prior decision squarely rested upon its reading of Rittmann v. Amazon.com, Inc., 971 F.3d 904 (9th Cir. 2020), which concerned Amazon delivery drivers. The panel found no clear conflict between Rittmann and Saxon and nothing in Saxon that undermined the panel’s prior reasoning that because the plaintiff drivers in this case, like the Amazon package delivery drivers in Rittmann, transport interstate goods for the last leg to their final destinations, they are engaged in interstate commerce under Section 1. View "EDMOND CARMONA, ET AL V. DOMINO'S PIZZA, LLC" on Justia Law