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

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Appellee worked at a Xerox Business Services, LLC (“XBS”) call center and was compensated according to a proprietary system of differential pay rates known as Achievement Based Compensation (“ABC”). Section 4 of the 2002 Dispute Resolution Plan ("DRP") required XBS and its agents to submit “all disputes” to binding arbitration for final and exclusive resolution. Appellee never signed the 2002 DRP. XBS issued an updated DRP (“2012 DRP”). XBS filed a motion to compel individual arbitration by 2,927 class members who had signed the 2002 DRP. The district court found that XBS had waived its right to compel arbitration.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying XBS's motion to compel. The panel noted that following Morgan v. Sundance, 142 S. Ct. 1708 (2022), the Ninth Circuit’s test for waiver of the right to compel arbitration consists of two elements: (1) knowledge of an existing right to compel arbitration; and (2) intentional acts inconsistent with that existing right. XBS challenged both prongs of the test. The panel held that XBS was correct that the district court could not compel nonparties to the case to arbitrate until after a class had been certified and the notice and opt-out period were complete. However, XBS failed to appreciate that waiver was a unilateral concept. The panel held that further undercutting XBS’s position was its own actions throughout the course of the litigation, in which XBS raised the 2012 DRP as to putative class members before the class had been certified and before it had the ability to move to enforce that agreement against them. View "TIFFANY HILL V. XEROX BUSINESS SERVICES, LLC, ET AL" on Justia Law

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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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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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Defendants used fake driver’s licenses and a false tissue procurement company as cover to infiltrate conferences that Planned Parenthood hosted or attended. Using the same strategy, defendants also arranged and attended lunch meetings with Planned Parenthood and visited Planned Parenthood health clinics. During these conferences, meetings, and visits, defendants secretly recorded Planned Parenthood staff without their consent. After secretly recording for roughly a year-and-a-half, Defendants released on the internet edited videos of the secretly recorded conversations. After a jury trial, the district court entered judgment in favor of Planned Parenthood and awarded it statutory, compensatory, and punitive damages as well as limited injunctive relief.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s judgment, after a jury trial, in favor of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc., and other plaintiffs on claims of trespass, fraud, conspiracy, breach of contracts, unlawful and fraudulent business practices, violating civil RICO, and violating various federal and state wiretapping laws. Affirming in part, the panel held that the compensatory damages were not precluded by the First Amendment. The panel held that under Cohen v. Cowles Media Co., 501 U.S. 663 (1991), and Animal Legal Def. Fund v. Wasden, 878 F.3d 1184 (9th Cir. 2018), facially constitutional statutes apply to everyone, including journalists. The panel reversed the jury’s verdict on the claim under the Federal Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2511(2)(d), and vacated the related statutory damages for violating this statute. View "PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION, ET AL V. CENTER FOR MEDICAL PROGRESS, ET AL" 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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Starz Entertainment LLC (Starz) entered into two licensing agreements with MGM Domestic Television Distribution LLC (MGM). Starz sued MGM in May 2020, asserting 340 claims of direct copyright infringement, 340 claims of contributory copyright infringement, 340 claims of vicarious copyright infringement, one claim of breach of contract, and one claim of breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. MGM moved for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that many of Starz’s copyright infringement claims are barred by the Supreme Court’s decision in Petrella.   The district court concluded that Petrella left unaffected the discovery rule—that under the Copyright Act there exists “a three-year damages bar [under Section 507(b)] except when the plaintiff reasonably was not aware of the infringements at the time they occurred.” The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial.   The court wrote that generally, a copyright claim accrues when the infringement occurs. The court held that Petrella did not do away with the discovery rule, under which a claim alternatively accrues when the copyright holder knows or reasonably should know that an infringement occurred. The court held that the discovery rule allows copyright holders to recover damages for all infringing acts that occurred before they knew or reasonably should have known of the infringing incidents, and the three-year limitations period runs from the date the claim accrued. The court held that the district court correctly applied the discovery rule, thus Plaintiff was not barred from seeking damages for all acts of infringement. View "STARZ ENTERTAINMENT, LLC V. MGM DOMESTIC TELEVISION DISTR." on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts, Copyright
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Google sent an email to users, such as Plaintiff, who had contributed photos to Google maps but had not yet joined the company’s Local Guides Program, inviting them to join the program. Plaintiff joined the Local Guides program and claimed his terabyte of free Google Drive storage. Google advised him the benefit was for two years, and Plaintiff contended that when he read the initial email, he assumed Google was offering a lifetime benefit. In ruling on Google’s summary judgment motion, the district court considered three documents – the photo impact email, the enrollment page, and the Program Rules - and concluded that they did not constitute a unilateral contract offer for one terabyte of free Google Drive storage for life.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment. The court explained that advertisements are not typically understood as offers, but that rule includes an exception for offers of a reward. The operative question under California law is “whether the advertiser, in clear and positive terms, promised to render performance in exchange for something requested by the advertiser, and whether the recipient of the advertisement reasonably might have concluded that by acting in accordance with the request a contract would be formed.”   The court reasoned that the Google documents at issue neither informed users how they might conclude the bargain, nor invited the performance of a specific act, leaving nothing for negotiation. The court held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to Google on Plaintiff’s conversion and breach of contract claims. View "ANDREW ROLEY V. GOOGLE LLC" on Justia Law

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LinkedIn Corp. sent hiQ Labs, Inc. ("hiQ") a cease-and-desist letter, asserting that hiQ violated LinkedIn’s User Agreement. LinkedIn asserted that if hiQ accessed LinkedIn’s data in the future, it would be violating state and federal law, including the CFAA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) and the California common law of trespass.HiQ sought injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment that LinkedIn could not lawfully invoke the CFAA, the DMCA, California Penal Code Sec. 502(c), or the common law of trespass against it. LinkedIn appealed the district court’s decision ordering LinkedIn to withdraw its cease-and-desist letter, to remove any existing technical barriers to hiQ’s access to public profiles, and to refrain from putting in place any legal or technical measures with the effect of blocking hiQ’s access to public profiles.The court affirmed the district court, finding that hiQ currently had no viable way to remain in business other than using LinkedIn public profile data for its “Keeper” and “Skill Mapper” analytics services and that hiQ demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction. The court found that the district court properly determined that the balance of hardships tipped in hiQ’s favor. The court concluded that hiQ showed a sufficient likelihood of establishing the elements of its claim for contract interference, and it raised a question on the merits of LinkedIn’s affirmative justification defense. Finally, the court found that the district court properly determined that the public interest favored hiQ’s position. View "HIQ LABS, INC. V. LINKEDIN CORPORATION" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs used the defendants’ websites but did not see a notice stating, “I understand and agree to the Terms & Conditions, which includes mandatory arbitration.” When a dispute arose, defendants moved to compel arbitration, arguing that plaintiffs’ use of the website signified their agreement to the mandatory arbitration provision found in the hyperlinked terms.The Ninth Circuit held that plaintiffs did not unambiguously manifest their assent to the terms and conditions when navigating through the websites. As a result, they never entered into a binding agreement to arbitrate their dispute, as required under the Federal Arbitration Act. The panel explained that the courts have routinely enforced “clickwrap” agreements, which present users with specified contractual terms on a pop-up screen requiring users to check a box explicitly stating “I agree” to proceed. However, courts are more reluctant to enforce browsewrap agreements, which provides notice only after users click a hyperlink.Finally, the panel held that the district court properly exercised its discretion in denying the defendants’ motion for reconsideration based on deposition testimony taken two months prior to the district court’s ruling on the motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs did not unambiguously manifest their assent to the terms and conditions when navigating the website. Thus, they never entered into a binding agreement to arbitrate. The court affirmed the district court’s order denying the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration. View "DANIEL BERMAN V. FREEDOM FINANCIAL NETWORK LLC" on Justia Law

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Gardineer was involved in an automobile accident. She sued the other driver, Lynette Hill, and the vehicle owner, Dennis Hill (Lynette’s father-in-law). Dennis had both a primary insurance policy and an umbrella policy with ANPAC. After Dennis’s death, the parties reached a settlement wherein ANPAC paid Gardineer the policy limit of Dennis’s automobile insurance policy. Gardineer reserved the right to assert that ANPAC had a duty to indemnify Hill under Dennis’s umbrellas policy for Hill’s liability. ANPAC sought a declaration that it had no duty to indemnify Hill under the umbrella policy.The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of ANPAC. The umbrella policy, by its plain and unambiguous terms, did not provide coverage for Lynettel’s liability arising from her use of Dennis’s vehicle. The term “insured” meant Dennis, his wife, and any “relative” – defined as a related person living in the household. Lynette did not reside in Dennis’s household; she was not a “relative” and not an “insured” under the policy. View "American National Property & Casualty Co. v. Gardineer" on Justia Law