Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
by
Plaintiffs-appellees Darrell Reeves and James King worked as welding inspectors for Enterprise Products Partners through third party staffing companies, Cypress Environmental Management and Kestrel Field Services. Reeves brought a collective action claim to recover unpaid overtime wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act. King later consented to join the putative collective action and was added as a named plaintiff. Enterprise argued that both Reeves and King signed employment contracts with their respective staffing companies that contained arbitration clauses for disputes. The Tenth Circuit found that indeed both plaintiffs’ respective contracts contained arbitration clauses, and that under the doctrine of equitable estoppel, these agreements require the claims to be resolved in arbitration. “Because Reeves and James’s claims allege substantially interdependent and concerted misconduct by Enterprise and non-defendant signatories, Cypress and Kestrel, arbitration should be compelled for these claims.” The Court reversed the district court’s denial of Enterprise’s motions to compel. View "Reeves, et al. v. Enterprise Products Partners" on Justia Law

by
Williams International Company LLC designed, manufactured, and serviced small jet engines. Dodson International Parts, Inc., sold new and used aircraft and aircraft parts. After purchasing two used jet engines that had been manufactured by Williams, Dodson contracted with Williams to inspect the engines and prepare an estimate of repair costs, intending to resell the repaired engines. Williams determined that the engines were so badly damaged that they could not be rendered fit for flying, but it refused to return one of the engines because Dodson had not paid its bill in full. Dodson sued Williams in federal court alleging federal antitrust and state-law tort claims. Williams moved to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), relying on an arbitration clause on the original invoices. The district court granted the motion, and the arbitrator resolved all of Dodson’s claims in favor of Williams. Dodson then moved to reconsider the order compelling arbitration and to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The court denied both motions and, construing Williams’s opposition to the motion for vacatur as a request to confirm the award, confirmed the award. Dodson appealed, challenging the district court’s order compelling arbitration and its order confirming the award and denying the motions for reconsideration and vacatur. After review, the Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding: (1) the claims in Dodson’s federal-court complaint were encompassed by the arbitration clause; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Dodson’s untimely motion to reconsider; and (3) that Dodson failed to establish any grounds for vacatur of the arbitrator’s award or for denial of confirmation of the award. View "Dodson International Parts v. Williams International Company" on Justia Law

by
T & H Services performed operation and maintenance services at Fort Carson Army base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, under a contract with the United States Army (the Army Contract) that was governed by several federal labor-standards statutes, including the Service Contract Act, and the Davis-Bacon Act. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 113 (the Union) represented some T&H employees under a collective-bargaining agreement (the CBA) that included a provision for binding arbitration of disputes “limited to matters of interpretation or application of express provisions of [the CBA].” Several Union members who repaired weather-damaged roofs at Fort Carson in the summer of 2018 were paid the hourly rate for general maintenance workers under Schedule A of the CBA. The Union, believing that the workers should have been classified as roofers under the Davis-Bacon Act and paid the corresponding hourly rate under the schedule, filed a grievance and sought arbitration of the dispute. When T&H refused, claiming that the dispute was not arbitrable under the CBA, the Union filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado to compel arbitration under section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). The district court agreed with T&H that the dispute was not arbitrable and granted summary judgment to the company. The Union appeals. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 113 v. T&H Services" on Justia Law

by
Respondents-Appellants DynaResource de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. and DynaResource, Inc. (“DynaResources”) appealed the district court’s confirmation of an arbitration award in Applicant-Appellee Goldgroup’s favor. This case involves a protracted dispute over a contract relating to a gold mining operation in Mexico. Goldgroup is a subsidiary of a Canadian company with a portfolio of projects in Mexico. DynaUSA, a Texas-based company, incorporated DynaMexico specifically for the purpose of developing the San Jose de Gracia property in the Sinaloa region of Northern Mexico. In 2006, Goldgroup and DynaResources entered into an Earn In/Option Agreement (the “Option Agreement”) which gave Goldgroup the right to earn up to a 50 percent equity interest in DynaMexico if Goldgroup invested a total of $18 million in four phases over approximately four years. The Option Agreement contained a dispute resolution provision specifying that “[a]ll questions or matters in dispute under this Agreement shall be submitted to binding arbitration . . . in Denver, Colorado under the Rules of the American Arbitration Association (‘AAA’) by a single arbitrator selected by the parties.” The Option Agreement also states that Mexican law applies “in respect to the shares of DynaMexico and the acquisition thereof,” and that venue and jurisdiction for any dispute under the Option Agreement would be in Denver. In 2011, Goldgroup exercised its option, became a 50 percent shareholder in DynaMexico, and appointed two directors. However, before the parties could agree on the fifth director, their relationship broke down due to a dispute over management issues. In 2012, DynaResources filed the first of numerous lawsuits between the parties; Goldgroup defended in part by arguing that DynaResources’s claims were subject to arbitration. Finding no reversible error to the district court's judgment, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. View "Goldgroup Resources v. Dynaresource De Mexico" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-appellant Dana Fedor appealed a district court’s order compelling her to arbitrate employment-related claims she brought against her former employer, UnitedHealthcare, Inc. (UHC), and United Healthcare Services, Inc. Fedor argued the district court impermissibly compelled arbitration before first finding that she and UHC had indeed formed the arbitration agreement underlying the district court’s decision. To this, the Tenth Circuit agreed, concluding that the issue of whether an arbitration agreement was formed in the first instance had to be determined by the court, even where there has been a failure to specifically challenge provisions within the agreement delegating certain decisions to an arbitrator. Judgment was vacated and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Fedor v. United Healthcare" on Justia Law

by
The parties to this appeal were a Bolivian company, Compania de Inversiones Mercantiles S.A. (“CIMSA”), and Mexican companies known as Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, S.A.B. de C.V. and GCC Latinoamerica, S.A. de C.V. (collectively “GCC”). Plaintiff-appellant CIMSA brought a district court action pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act to confirm a foreign arbitral award issued in Bolivia against Defendant-appellee GCC. The underlying dispute stemmed from an agreement under which CIMSA and GCC arranged to give each other a right of first refusal if either party decided to sell its shares in a Bolivian cement company known as Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento, S.A. (“SOBOCE”). GCC sold its SOBOCE shares to a third party after taking the position that CIMSA failed to properly exercise its right of first refusal. In 2011, CIMSA initiated an arbitration proceeding in Bolivia. The arbitration tribunal determined that GCC violated the contract and the parties’ expectations. GCC then initiated Bolivian and Mexican court actions to challenge the arbitration tribunal’s decisions. A Bolivian trial judge rejected GCC’s challenge to the arbitration tribunal’s decision on the merits. A Bolivian appellate court reversed and remanded. During the pendency of the remand proceedings, Bolivia’s highest court reversed the appellate court and affirmed the original trial judge. But as a result of the simultaneous remand proceedings, the high court also issued arguably contradictory orders suggesting the second trial judge’s ruling on the merits remained in effect. GCC filed a separate Bolivian court action challenging the arbitration tribunal’s damages award. That case made its way to Bolivia’s highest court too, which reversed an intermediate appellate court’s nullification of the award and remanded for further proceedings. Invoking the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, CIMSA filed a confirmation action in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. After encountering difficulties with conventional service of process in Mexico under the Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents, CIMSA sought and received permission from the district court to serve GCC through its American counsel pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3). The district court then rejected GCC’s challenges to personal jurisdiction, holding (among other things) that: (1) it was appropriate to aggregate GCC’s contacts with the United States; (2) CIMSA’s injury arose out of GCC’s contacts; (3) exercising jurisdiction was consistent with fair play and substantial justice; and (4) alternative service was proper. The district court rejected GCC's defenses to CIMSA's claim under the New York Convention. Before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Court affirmed the district court: the district court properly determined that CIMSA’s injury arose out of or related to GCC’s nationwide contacts. "The district court correctly decided that exercising personal jurisdiction over GCC comported with fair play and substantial justice because CIMSA established minimum contacts and GCC did not make a compelling case to the contrary." The Court also affirmed the district court's confirmation of the arbitration tribunal's decisions. View "Compania De Inversiones v. Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua" on Justia Law

by
A married couple, Beverly Bien and David Wellman, invested money with Mid Atlantic Capital Corporation (“Mid Atlantic”). Their investments performed poorly. Stung by the losses, Ms. Bien and Mr. Wellman initiated arbitration proceedings against Mid Atlantic. The arbitration panel awarded damages, fees and costs to the couple. The panel also ordered Ms. Bien and Mr. Wellman to reassign their ownership interests in their investments to Mid Atlantic. Mid Atlantic moved the federal district court to modify the arbitration award to correct “an evident material miscalculation of figures.” The district court denied the motion because the alleged error that Mid Atlantic sought to remedy did not appear on the face of the arbitration award. In the amended final judgment, in addition to ordering Mid Atlantic to pay Ms. Bien and Mr. Wellman certain damages, the court ordered that prejudgment interest would accrue on the damages portion of the award and that postjudgment interest would accrue at the federal rate specified in 28 U.S.C. 1961. Both parties appealed the district court’s order. Mid Atlantic specifically challenged the court’s denial of its motion to modify the arbitration award; the couple cross-appealed to challenge the court’s rulings with respect to prejudgment interest and the reassignment of distributions they received since the arbitration award due to their ownership interests in the investments. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Mid Atlantic Capital v. Bien" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff-Appellant Luzetta Murphy-Sims appealed after a jury ruled in favor of Defendant-Appellee Owners Insurance Company (Owners) on her complaint against Owners' insured stemming from a car accident. The insured was at fault; Murphy-Sims maintained that she suffered extensive injuries, and consequently incurred significant medical costs, as a result of the accident. In February 2014, she sent Owners a letter demanding settlement claiming $41,000 in medical expenses. Owners timely replied with a request for more information. When Murphy-Sims failed to reply, Owners sent two additional follow-up requests. Finally, in June 2014, Murphy-Sims provided Owners with some of the requested information. It did not offer a settlement payment in response. In July 2014, Murphy-Sims sued the insured. The parties agreed roughly three weeks later to enter into a Nunn agreement, which bound the matter over to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Murphy-Sims approximately $1.3 million and judgment was entered against the insured. Pursuant to the agreement, Murphy-Sims did not execute on the judgment. In March 2016, Murphy-Sims, standing in the insured's shoes as permitted under the Nunn agreement, filed the underlying lawsuit against Owners in state district court, claiming Owners breached its contract with Switzer and had done so in bad faith. Owners removed the suit to federal court and the case proceeded to trial. The jury ultimately found that Owners did not breach its contract with the insured, thereby declining to award $1.3 million in damages to Murphy-Sims. The jury did not reach the bad faith claim having been instructed that it need not be reached in the absence of a breach of contract. After review of Murphy-Sims arguments on appeal, the Tenth Circuit determined the district curt committed no reversible error, and affirmed its judgment. View "Murphy-Sims v. Owners Insurance Company" on Justia Law

by
Wakaya Perfection, LLC and its principals sued Youngevity International Corp. and its principals in Utah state court. The Youngevity parties responded by bringing their own suit against the Wakaya parties in a California federal district court, then removing the Utah case to federal court. These steps resulted in concurrent federal cases sharing at least some claims and issues. The California litigation progressed; and in November 2017, the federal district court in Utah ordered dismissal. The issues presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether: (1) the federal district court should have abstained from exercising jurisdiction under the Colorado River Water Conservation District v. United States, 424 U.S. 800 (1976) test; and (2) and arbitrator would have needed to decide the arbitrability of Wakaya's claims. The Tenth Circuit reversed on both grounds: the federal trial court applied the wrong abstention test and erroneously ruled that an arbitrator should have decided whether Wakaya's claims were arbitrable. View "Wakaya Perfection, LLC v. Youngevity International" on Justia Law

by
Au pairs and former au pairs filed a class action lawsuit against AuPairCare, Inc. (“APC”) and other au pair sponsoring companies alleging violations of antitrust laws, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), federal and state minimum wage laws, and other state laws. Eventually, the au pairs amended their complaint and added two former au pairs, Juliane Harning and Laura Mejia Jimenez, who were sponsored by APC. In response, APC filed a motion to compel arbitration, which the district court denied. The district court found the arbitration provision between the parties both procedurally and substantively unconscionable and declined to enforce it. Because the arbitration provision contained only one substantively unconscionable clause, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court abused its discretion by refusing to sever the offending clause and otherwise enforce the agreement to arbitrate. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded for further proceedings. View "Beltran v. Interexchange, Inc." on Justia Law