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Second District Reverses Arbitration Order in Wage & Hour Case, Citing Lack of Bilaterality

In Arbitration, Class-wide Arbitration, Concepcion on March 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm
BgKahuna squeezes his way inside. Abandoned an...

BgKahuna squeezes his way inside. Abandoned and decaying Ambassador Apartments in Gary, Indiana (Photo credit: slworking2)

Yesterday, the California Court of Appeal for the Second District reversed the lower court’s order granting a petition to compel arbitration.  Compton v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. B236669, — Cal.Rptr.3d —-, 2013 WL 1120619 (2d Dist. Mar 19, 2013).  Plaintiff was a property manager who filed a putative wage & hour class action complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court.  She was required to sign an arbitration agreement that also barred arbitration of class claims.  The trial court granted defendants’ petition to compel arbitration.

Normally an order compelling arbitration is not appealable.  But the Court of Appeal determined it had jurisdiction, citing the “death knell” doctrine:

An order compelling arbitration is not appealable. (Elijahjuan v. Superior Court (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 15, 19.) The parties argue over whether this matter is appealable under the “death knell” doctrine, which applies when an order effectively terminates a class action. Rather than parse the case law on that issue, we conclude that we have jurisdiction to treat this nonappealable order as a petition for writ of mandate in this unusual case because: (1) the unconscionability issue is one of law based on undisputed facts and has been fully briefed; (2) the record is sufficient to consider the issue and it appears that the trial court would be only a nominal party; (3) if we were to dismiss the appeal, and the ultimate reversal of the order is inevitable, it would come in a post-arbitration award after the substantial time and expense of arbitrating the dispute; and (4) as a result, dismissing the appeal would require the parties to arbitrate nonarbitrable claims and would be costly and dilatory.

The Court concluded that the arbitration agreement was unconscionably one-sided because (1) it exempted from arbitration claims the employer would more likely bring, such as claims for injunctive or equitable relief from trade secret disclosures; (2) it limited the time to demand arbitration to a period shorter than the relevant statutes of limitation; (3) it retained the statute of limitations period for itself  and (4) it suggested that the arbitrator had the discretion not to award mandatory attorney’s fees under the Labor Code.

The Court determined that it was not violating Concepcion by enforcing Armendariz’s bilaterality rule.

Concepcion did not discuss the modicum of bilaterality standard adopted by Armendariz, which is not a class action case. And Concepcion did not overrule Armendariz. We both agree with and are therefore bound to follow our Supreme Court and apply Armendariz to this case. (Truly Nolen of America v. Superior Court, supra, 208 Cal.App.4th at p. 507.) Accordingly, we conclude that Concepcion does not apply to invalidate Armendariz’s modicum of bilaterality rule, at least in this context.

Justices and Judge

Justice Laurence D. Rubin wrote the opinion for the Court, with Justice Madeleine I. Flier concurring.  Presiding Justice  Tricia A. Bigelow dissented.  Judge Michael Johnson, Los Angeles Superior Court.

Attorneys

R. Rex Parris Law Firm, R. Rex Parris, Alexander R. Wheeler, Kitty Szeto and John M. Bickford; Lawyers for Justice and Edwin Aiwazian, for Petitioner.

Jackson Lewis, Thomas G. Mackey and Brian D. Fahy for Real Parties in Interest.

By CHARLES H. JUNG

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First District Dismisses Appeal of Trial Court Order That Did Not Compel Arbitration of PAGA Claims

In Arbitration, Class Actions, Class-wide Arbitration, Concepcion, PAGA on February 16, 2012 at 6:57 am
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The Court of Appeal for the First District granted plaintiff’s motion to dismiss an appeal, where the employer appellant sought review of a trial court order that did not compel an employee to arbitrate her PAGA claims.  Reyes v. Macy’s, Inc., No. A133411, 202 Cal.App.4th 1119 (1st Dist. Dec. 21, 2011).  The court held that the portion of the trial court’s order that failed to compel employee to arbitrate her class claims and PAGA claims was not immediately appealable; and plaintiff’s PAGA claim was not an individual claim and thus was not within the scope of arbitration request.  Id. (holding that the order granting Defendant’s own motion to compel arbitration of the individual claims “is not appealable, and the remainder of the order denying the motion to dismiss representative [PAGA] claims is not a final judgment and, therefore, also is not appealable . . . .”).

Background

Plaintiff and respondent Reyes brought action against her employer Macy’s, alleging numerous class action labor code violations and a cause of action under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”), as well as individual claims for discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.  Id.

In the trial court, Macy’s filed a “motion to compel arbitration on an individual basis, dismiss class allegations, and stay civil action,” asking the court to enforce the parties’ agreement to arbitrate, compel the plaintiff to arbitrate individual claims, dismiss class/representative claims and, if the motion were granted, stay the proceedings until arbitration is completed.  Id.  San Francisco Superior Court Judge Charlotte Walter Woolard held that:

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