Sunday, September 30, 2018

SCOTUS of Just 8 Consider Arbitrability

This week, a U.S. Supreme Court of just eight justices will hear New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira including the matter of whether a dispute over applicability of the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA) Section 1 exemption is an arbitrability issue that must be resolved in arbitration pursuant to a valid delegation clause. Importantly, this case may resolve whether such applicability of the FAA is a question for the arbitrator or the judge. Several of the Supreme Court’s recent cases suggest that an arbitrator’s authority includes not only resolving of the dispute, but also determining the extent to which any particular dispute falls within our authority as arbitrators. Interestingly, retired Justice Kennedy was one of five justices commonly in the majority when arbitration cases were decided by a 5-4 vote. An even panel of justices must now decide how activity in this case, which involves an exception from the FAA for “contracts of employment of seamen, railroad employees, or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce," will be determined. The underlying facts concern individuals who drive the trucks carrying goods consigned to trucking companies documenting drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. For example, if that exception does not apply, then long-haul truck drivers are back in the conventional domain of the FAA. The actual text of the FAA, however, does not exempt all transportation “employees.” Rather, it exempts “contracts of employment” of transportation employees. Oral argument is scheduled October 3rd. See more here-- and and

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Mediation Law Changes Coming to Cali

Interestingly, a new California law that will take effect next year requires mediation participants to essentially sign an informed consent. Revised Evidence Code section 1129 will require a lawyer to make sure their client understands the implications of California's legal protections for mediation communications, before the client agrees to mediate. If the client has already agreed to mediation before seeking counsel, say by signing a contract with a mediation clause, consultation will be still required as soon as possible after engaging counsel. A Mediation Disclosure Notification and Acknowledgment is to be signed essentially outlining that communications, negotiations, or settlement offers in the course of a mediation must remain confidential. The ADR Section of The Florida Bar was recently considering the outstanding issue (currently in the hands of the ADR Rules & Policy Committee of The Supreme Court of Florida) of mediators possibly being required to be certified to mediate court connected cases in Florida. In that discussion, those advocating against are confusing self-determination in choosing a mediator with self-determination of the actual outcome of a settlement. During this debate, we wondered aloud whether such conversations regarding the process take place often enough with counsel in the detail required here, or whether the elements of an opening found in our certified mediator rules suffice. The new law smartly includes language that mediator’s report, opinion, recommendation, or finding about what occurred in a mediation may not be submitted to or considered by a court or another adjudicative body. This would alleviate a problem, though infrequent, of subpoenaing mediators to court in enforcement actions which certainly compromises our neutrality and mostly results in our being excused from such proceedings. See full article from here-- and amended statutory language here--

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Half of Uber MDL to Arbitrate

A federal judge tossed half of the lawsuits concerning Uber's data breach after finding claimants were aware they signed arbitration agreements upon registering to use the app. Uber sought to compel arbitration in consumer class actions filed over the breach, which compromised the personal information of 57 million drivers and riders. This month, the presiding U.S. District Judge, Philip Gutierrez of California, granted such motions in separate orders in seven cases while seven other cases remain. The trial court relied on the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Second Circuit’s decision last year in Meyer v. Uber, finding a “reasonable user” of a smartphone would understand the process of agreeing to Uber’s terms of service. Of course, plaintiffs disagree with that holding and its reasoning. The judge wants further hearings to address whether there is going to be an MDL after this whole process of weeding out arbitrable cases is over with, or not. He noted, however, that all the cases are nationwide class actions that could go forward as a consolidated complaint, but that plaintiffs' lawyers are debating who should lead that action. Uber announced hackers breached its app in 2016 and also admitted paying them $100,000 to destroy the information in 2017. Last spring, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation sent the class actions to this judge, whose first action was to decide Uber’s arbitration motions. Plaintiffs lawyers argued that data breaches fell outside the scope of Uber’s agreement. The current judge was not persuaded and instead found that an arbitrator must decide that issue. He cited the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s 2016 decision in Mohammed v. Uber, which had a “nearly identical Uber delegation provision.” Plaintiffs also cited this summer's decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Cullinane v. Uber and U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s decision last year in Metter v. Uber, both finding Uber’s arbitration agreement unconscionable because a pop-up keyboard obscured text. But Judge Gutierrez found those cases, unlike the Second Circuit’s Meyer case, involved different devices or different versions of Uber’s app, stating he agreed with defendants "that the Cullinane decision departs dramatically both from what other courts have found regarding Uber’s registration process, and from the overall legal landscape regarding assent to online agreements." The court found rather that "Clickable buttons come in all shapes and sizes.” It is clear there is a split of authority in these cases likely to continue affecting arbitrability. See full story here--