Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

by
In this long-running contractual dispute between Petitioners, the West Virginia Investment Management Board (IMB) and the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board (CPRB) and Respondent, The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC), the Supreme Court affirmed the order dismissing this matter from the Business Court Division’s docket in reliance on conclusions reached in an arbitration panel’s final decision. The first time the parties were before the Supreme Court, the Court reversed a summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The Court further directed that the matter be referred to the Business Court Division. Due to the complexity of the case, the parties agreed to submit the dispute to binding arbitration before a panel of three business court judges. The panel unanimously found in favor of Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no cause to void the parties’ agreement to submit the matter to binding arbitration; and (2) Petitioners’ arguments that the panel failed to apply the law of the case and neglected to decide all issues before it were unavailing. View "W. Va. Investment Management Board v. Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review’s finding that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, Jimmie Lemon’s injury was work related. Jimmie Lemon filed a workers’ compensation claim claiming that his low back injury occurred in the course of and resulting from his employment with Arch Coal, Inc. The Office of Judges found the claim compensable and designated Lemon’s compensable condition as a herniated disc. The Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with directions that the claim be rejected, concluding that Lemon’s injury was not work-related. Upon reconsideration, the Supreme Court upheld the prior administrative finding that Lemon’s injury was work-related. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review and remanded with directions to reinstate the decisions of the Office of judges and the Board of Review that Lemon’s claim was compensable. View "Arch Coal, Inc. v. Lemon" on Justia Law

by
A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

by
A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

by
In this action brought by Plaintiff alleging a deliberate intent claim and violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (Act) the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s rulings and remanded the case for entry of an order dismissing the action and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff instituted this civil action against Hampden Coal, LLC, his employer, and his supervisor alleging a deliberate intent claim related to his workplace injury and two violations of the Act arising from his demotion. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement Appellant signed as a condition of his employment. The circuit court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss and refused to compel arbitration, concluding, among other things, that the arbitration agreement was invalid because it lacked consideration and was both substantively and procedurally unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) more stringent or different standards do not apply to consideration of arbitration agreements in the employment context; (2) the parties’ agreement to arbitrate their disputes served as consideration for the agreement; (3) the agreement was neither substantively or procedurally unconscionable; (4) Plaintiff’s claims did not fall outside the scope of the agreement; and (5) the circuit court erred in finding that the agreement was an employment contract. View "Hampden Coal, LLC v. Varney" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order invaliding the arbitration provision at issue in this case involving an oil and gas lease and remanded with directions that the case be dismissed and referred to arbitration. Petitioner and Respondents were parties to an oil and gas lease that included an arbitration provision. Respondents sued Petitioner, seeking to recover payments to which they claimed to be entitled under the lease and various other damages. Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration, relying on the arbitration provision in the lease. The circuit court denied Petitioner’s motion to compel arbitration, finding ambiguity in the lease’s arbitration provision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in going outside of the provisions in the arbitration clause to find language to create an ambiguity; and (2) the arbitration provision was not ambiguous and therefore should be enforced. View "SWN Production Co. v. Long" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order denying Bluestem Brands, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration brought by Respondent. Bluestem, a retailer of consumer goods, partnered with various bands to offer credit to its customers. The circuit court concluded that the arbitration agreement entered into by the parties was not binding on Respondent. Specifically, the circuit court found that Respondent did not assent to arbitration because she did not receive a copy of the most recent credit card agreement containing arbitration language and that Bluestem’s credit partners, and not Bluestem itself, were party to any potentially applicable credit agreement requiring arbitration. In reversing, the Supreme Court held (1) although the most recent amendments to the credit agreement lacked mutual assent, a prior version of the credit agreement contained a properly formed arbitration agreement and encompassed Respondent’s claims; and (2) Bluestem, as a non-signatory to the agreement, may utilize the theory of equitable estoppel to compel arbitration under the agreement. View "Bluestem Brands, Inc. v. Shade" on Justia Law

by
In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, waiver of a contractual right to arbitration is a threshold question of enforceability to be determined by a court, not an arbitrator. Respondents commenced an arbitration against Petitioner pursuant to an agreement between the parties alleging breach of contract. Petitioner ultimately filed a motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction to prohibit Respondents from pursuing their claims through arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order enjoining Respondents from pursuing further arbitration, holding (1) the question of waiver should have been determined by the circuit court rather than an arbitrator; (2) Respondents were not allowed to reinitiate the arbitration process under the American Arbitration Association after having voluntarily abandoned their claims in arbitration under Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.; and (3) Respondents waived their right to pursue any future arbitration under the agreement. View "Williams v. Tucker" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was a dispute between a pharmacy network administrator and various West Virginia pharmacies that were network members. Petitioners here were Caremark, LLC, companies affiliated with Caremark, LLC and individuals who were pharmacists-in-charge at certain CVS pharmacies (collectively, CVS/Caremark). Plaintiffs were six West Virginia retail pharmacies and six licensed pharmacists affiliated with those pharmacies (collectively, Pharmacies). Each of the six pharmacies had an agreement with Caremark. The agreements at issue contained an arbitration clause electing the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to govern arbitration. The Pharmacies filed a complaint against CVS/Caremark seeking injunctive relief for violations of W. Va. Code 30-5-7, 33-16-3q and 33-11-4 and also alleged tortious interference and fraud. CVS/Caremark filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the entry of an order dismissing this case and compelling arbitration, holding that the incorporation of the AAA rules into the arbitration agreements constituted clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties agreed to delegate questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator. View "West Virginia CVS Pharmacy, LLC v. McDowell Pharmacy, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, were former students in the nursing program at Salem International University (Salem). When Plaintiffs enrolled, they signed enrollment agreements that contained an arbitration clause. Plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint against Salem and its president (collectively, Salem) alleging that they were denied the opportunity to complete their coursework in nursing at Salem as a result of the nursing program’s loss of accreditation. Salem filed a motion to stay proceedings pending mandatory alternative dispute resolution. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration agreement did not include an enforceable class action litigation waiver. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the arbitration agreement acted as a class action litigation waiver barring Plaintiffs from seeking judicial relief as a class. View "Salem International University v. Bates" on Justia Law