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

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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Plaintiff purchased a set of tires from Walmart.com, which included a Terms of Use with an arbitration provision. Plaintiff had the tires shipped to and installed at a Walmart Auto Center, and while waiting for the tires to be installed, he purchased the lifetime balancing and rotation Service Agreement. Plaintiff received tire services once in 2019 but was later denied service on several occasions in 2020 at multiple Walmart Auto Centers. Plaintiff brought a putative class action alleging breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing. Walmart sought to compel individual arbitration of its dispute with Plaintiff pursuant to the arbitration provisions of the Terms of Use. The district court found that the plain meaning of the Terms of Use precluded the applicability of the arbitration provision to in-store purchases.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Walmart Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration and agreed with the district court that Plaintiff contested the existence, not the scope, of an arbitration agreement that would encompass this dispute. As the party seeking to compel arbitration, Walmart bore the burden of proving the existence of an agreement to arbitrate by a preponderance of the evidence. The panel held that substantial evidence supported that the two contracts between Plaintiff and Walmart were separate, independent agreements. The two contracts—though they involved the same parties and the same tires—were separate and not interrelated. Therefore, the arbitration agreement in the first did not encompass disputes arising from the second. View "KEVIN JOHNSON V. WALMART INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who represents both a Washington and a national class, was incarcerated three times in the Kitsap County Jail. In each instance, the jail confiscated his cash at booking and returned it to him in the form of a prepaid debit card issued and serviced, respectively, by defendants Cache Valley Bank and Rapid Investments, Inc. (collectively, “Rapid”). Plaintiff was not provided an option to receive his money in any other form. Plaintiff claimed that Rapid’s debit cards carried fees that violated the EFTA and Washington state law. Rapid sought arbitration pursuant to an arbitration provision in a cardholder agreement.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration. The panel wrote that Plaintiff’s retention of the release card, prior to use, cannot constitute assent to the agreement. The panel next considered whether Plaintiff’s subsequent use of the card to withdraw funds, while remaining silent, constituted assent. The panel held that because the money Plaintiff withdrew was his own, because the card he was issued came pre-activated and there was no other way to obtain immediate use of his own funds, and because Rapid structured its fees to begin deducting after three days regardless of use, Plaintiff’s decision to withdraw his own money cannot reasonably be understood to manifest assent to the contract. View "JEFFREY REICHERT, ET AL V. RAPID INVESTMENTS, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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FeeDx and HayDay Farms, Inc. entered into an Exclusive Distribution and Processing Agreement (EDPA). HayDay’s President also entered into a Consulting Agreement with FeeDx through Nippon Agricultural Holgins, Inc. The agreements provided for arbitration. The EDPA also made HayDay and Nippon jointly and severally liable. Neither HayDay nor FeeDx performed its side of the agreement. The parties entered a Settlement Agreement, which modified, but did not replace, the EDPA. After the Settlement Agreement did not see fruition, the parties went to arbitration. An arbitration tribunal made awards against FeeDx, and HayDay and Nippon petitioned to confirm the award. FeeDx sought to vacate the award, arguing that it exceeded the tribunal’s powers under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). The district court vacated $7 million from the award that reflected HayDay’s unpaid installments under the Settlement Agreement, but confirmed the rest of the award.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, and reversed in part, the district court’s order confirming in part an arbitration award of more than $21 million entered against FeeDx. The panel held that arbitration awards that, as here, involve at least one foreign party are governed by the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“Convention”), which Congress incorporated into federal law under the FAA. 9 U.S.C. Section 203 provides federal district courts subject matter jurisdiction over actions or proceedings falling under the Convention. The panel held that the parties’ failure to assert federal question jurisdiction did not deprive the district court of subject matter jurisdiction where HayDay and Nippon’s state court petition established Section 203 jurisdiction. View "HAYDAY FARMS, INC., ET AL V. FEEDX HOLDINGS, INC." on Justia Law

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Coinbase, Inc., an online cryptocurrency exchange, appeals the district court’s order denying its motion to compel arbitration in a diversity suit brought by Plaintiff and three other Coinbase users (collectively “Plaintiffs”) who opted into Coinbase’s Dogecoin Sweepstakes in June 2021.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Coinbase, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration in a diversity suit. The panel held that the “scope” of an arbitration clause concerns how widely it applies, not whether it has been superseded by a subsequent agreement. The district court therefore correctly ruled that the issue of whether the forum selection clause in the Sweepstakes’ Official Rules superseded the arbitration clause in the User Agreement was not delegated to the arbitrator, but rather was for the court to decide.   Further, the court wrote that the district court correctly ruled that because the User Agreement and the Official Rules conflict on the question whether the parties’ dispute must be resolved by an arbitrator or by a California court, the Official Rules’ forum selection clause supersedes the User Agreement’s arbitration clause. View "DAVID SUSKI, ET AL V. COINBASE, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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The Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 imposes liability on employers who withdraw—partially or completely—from multiemployer pension funds. After a complete withdrawal, GCIU-Employer Retirement Fund’s (GCIU) actuary calculated MNG Enterprise’s (MNG) withdrawal liability using an interest rate published by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. On MNG’s challenge, an arbitrator found (1) that MNG could not be assessed partial withdrawal liability following a complete withdrawal, (2) that it had shown the interest rate used was not the best estimate of the plan’s experience, and (3) that GCIU properly included the newspapers’ contribution histories. The district court affirmed the arbitrator’s award, vacating and correcting only a typographical error on the interest rate.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part the district court’s order affirming, except for a typographical error, an arbitrator’s award regarding the withdrawal liability. The panel held that the MPPAA directs the plan actuary to determine withdrawal liability based on “actuarial assumptions and methods which, in the aggregate, are reasonable (taking into account the experience of the plan and reasonable expectations) and which, in combination, offer the actuary’s best estimate of anticipated experience under the plan.” The panel held that the GCIU actuary’s use of the PBGC rate, without considering the “experience of the plan and reasonable expectations,” did not satisfy the “best estimate” standard. View "GCIU-EMPLOYER RETIREMENT FUND, ET AL V. MNG ENTERPRISES, INC." on Justia Law

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In an action brought by the State of Hawaii challenging the U.S. Department of the Army’s changes to the operation of its dining facilities at Schofield Barracks and Wheeler Army Airfield in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s conclusion that the Randolph-Shepard Act (“RSA”) did not apply to Dining Facility Attendant (“DFA”) contracts, and affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the RSA advance review provision applied to the reclassification of a Schofield Barracks contract.   The panel held that the district court applied an incorrect standard of review to the RSA arbitration panel’s construction of 20 U.S.C. Section 107(a) when it deferred heavily to the arbitration panel’s interpretation. Because the RSA did not delegate interpretive authority to the arbitration panel, the panel reviewed de novo. The panel held that the term “operate” was ambiguous in Section 107(a).   The panel held further that the statutory structure of the RSA supported a broad interpretation in favor of increased opportunities for blind vendors, and the implementing regulations swept even more broadly and counseled strongly in favor of applying the RSA to DFA contracts. The panel affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the RSA advance review requirement applied to the Army’s reclassification of Schofield Barracks’ dining facilities. View "STATE OF HAWAII V. USEDU" on Justia Law

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The Chickasaw Nation, a sovereign and federally recognized Indian tribe, operates its own healthcare system, which includes five pharmacies. Under federal law, members of federally recognized Native nations are eligible to receive healthcare services at the nations’ facilities at no charge, and a nation may recoup the cost of services that it provides to a tribal member from that member’s health insurance plan. Caremark is the pharmacy benefit manager for health insurance plans that cover many tribal members served by the Chickasaw Nation’s pharmacies. The Nation signed agreements with Caremark. Each of these agreements incorporated by reference a Provider Agreement and a Provider Manual. The Provider Manual included an arbitration provision with a delegation clause requiring the arbitrator, rather than the courts, to resolve threshold issues about the scope and enforceability of the arbitration provision. The Nation sued Caremark, claiming violations of 25 U.S.C. Section 1621e, a provision of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act referred to as the “Recovery Act.”   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting the petition to compel arbitration. The court rejected the Nation’s argument that it did not actually form contracts with Caremark that included arbitration provisions with delegation clauses. The court concluded that the premise of the Nation’s argument— that an arbitration agreement always and necessarily waives tribal sovereign immunity—was incorrect. Rather, the arbitration agreement simply designated a forum for resolving disputes for which immunity was waived. View "CAREMARK, LLC V. CHICKASAW NATION" on Justia Law

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The dispute at issue is between Jones Day and one of its former partners, a German national who was based in its Paris office until he left to join Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (“Orrick”). Jones Day’s partnership agreement provides for mandatory arbitration of all disputes among partners, and that all such arbitration proceedings are governed by the FAA. The partnership dispute proceeded to arbitration in Washington D.C., the location designated in the arbitration agreement.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s order denying Jones Day’s petitions to compel Orrick to comply with an arbitrator’s subpoena. First, the court held that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the action to enforce arbitral summonses issued by the arbitrator in an ongoing international arbitration being conducted in Washington, D.C., under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, known as the New York Convention. The court further held that venue was proper in the Northern District of California. The court reversed and remanded with instructions to enforce Jones Day’s petitions to compel Orrick and its partners to comply with the arbitral summonses. View "JONES DAY V. ORRICK, HERRINGTON & SUTCLIFFE" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff claimed that PeopleConnect used her name and likeness in its Classmates.com school yearbook database without her consent. Plaintiff retained an attorney, who created a Classmates.com account and searched for Plaintiff on the site. In creating the account, the attorney agreed to the Terms of Service, which contained an arbitration provision. Applying Ohio law, the district court denied PeopleConnect’s motion to compel arbitration, holding that there was no evidence that Plaintiff gave her counsel authority to bind her to the Terms of Service containing the arbitration provision.   The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court’s denial of a motion to compel arbitration in an action involving a right of publicity claim against PeopleConnect, LLC under Ohio law. The panel held that the district court erred in applying Ohio law because Washington law governed the threshold question of arbitrability. Here, because no conflict was shown to exist between the law of Washington (the forum state) and Ohio law, Washington law applied. The court held that on the record before the district court, questions of fact precluded ruling on the motion to compel arbitration.   These questions of fact included: whether Plaintiff and her attorney had an agency relationship when her attorney agreed to the Terms of Service; if they did have an agency relationship, whether and how Plaintiff limited her attorney’s authority as her agent; and whether Plaintiff ratified her attorney’s agreement to arbitrate. The court held further that PeopleConnect had a right to conduct discovery on these and related arbitrability issues before the district court decides the motion to compel arbitration. View "BARBARA KNAPKE V. PEOPLECONNECT, INC." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a Russian citizen who resides in Russia, filed a civil RICO suit against Defendant Russian citizen who resides in California, and eleven other defendants. After securing a foreign arbitration award against Defendant. Plaintiff obtained a judgment from a United States district court confirming the award and giving Plaintiff the rights to execute that judgment in California and to pursue discovery. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants engaged in illegal activity, in violation of RICO, to thwart the execution of that California judgment.   Consistent with the Second and Third Circuits, but disagreeing with the Seventh Circuit’s residency-based test for domestic injuries involving intangible property, the court held that the alleged injuries to a judgment obtained by Plaintiff from a United States district court in California were domestic injuries to property such that Plaintiff had statutory standing under RICO. The court concluded that, for purposes of standing under RICO, the California judgment existed as property in California because the rights that it provided to Plaintiff existed only in California. In addition, much of the conduct underlying the alleged injury occurred in or was targeted at California. View "VITALY SMAGIN V. COMPAGNIE MONEGASQUE DE BANQUE" on Justia Law