Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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This case arose from an interest arbitration award that retroactively increased employee health care premiums for a period when there was no enforceable collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The Superior Court struck a portion of the award that granted the retroactive increase, ruling that the award: (1) was an unconstitutional taking in violation of the due process clause; (2) violated Washington's wage rebate act (WRA); and (3) was arbitrary and capricious. Kitsap County appealed this ruling and the Washington Supreme Court granted direct review. Finding the arbitration award proper, the Supreme Court reversed. View "Kitsap County Deputy Sheriffs' Guild v. Kitsap County" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Lawrence Hill, Adam Wise, and Robert Miller represented a class of employees who worked for an armored car company Garda CL Northwest, Inc. They brought a wage and hour suit against the company, citing violations of the Washington Industrial Welfare Act, and the Washington Minimum Wage Act. After several months of litigation, Garda moved to compel arbitration under the terms of a labor agreement. The trial court granted the motion, but ruled that the employees could arbitrate as a class. The Court of Appeals affirmed the order to compel arbitration, but that the employees must arbitrate individually notwithstanding the class certification. Both sides appealed the appellate court decision. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the arbitration clause was unconscionable, and reversed the Court of Appeals. View "Hill v. Garda CL Northwest. Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Supreme Court in this matter was the narrow question of whether an arbitration agreement signed by respondents was unconscionable and therefore unenforceable under California law. Upon review, the Washington Supreme Court concluded that the forum selection and punitive damages clauses at issue were not unconscionable, but that the arbitrator selection, statute of limitations and fee shifting provisions were. Therefore, because the agreement was "permeated with unconscionability," it was unenforceable. View "Brown v. MHN Gov't Servs., Inc." on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case involved the enforceability of a binding arbitration clause included within a debt adjustment contract. The trial court denied the defendant's motion to compel arbitration, ruling that the motion was untimely and that the binding arbitration clause was unconscionable. Upon review of the trial court record and the clause at issue, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's holding that the clause was unconscionable, which then required the Court to decide whether this conclusion as to the validity of the binding arbitration clause is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Finding no preemption, the Court affirmed. View "Gandee v. LDL Freedom Enters., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted Respondent Ryan Enquist's petition to review a decision of the Court of Appeals in which that court affirmed the trial court's award of costs and reasonable attorney's fees to Petitioner Jeffery Niccum at a trial de novo following mandatory arbitration. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court properly subtracted statutory costs and attorney fees from Niccum's offer of compromise before determining that Enquist failed to improve his position for purposes of MAR 7.3. Upon review, the Court determined the appellate court's conclusion was in error, and reversed. View "Niccum v. Enquist" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a claim for damages relating to a drilling contract Petitioner Elcon Construction and Respondent Eastern Washington University. Elcon alleged tort and contract claims. The contract claims were resolved by arbitration. In dismissing the tort claims, the trial court applied the independent duty rule formerly known as the "economic loss rule," which the Court of Appeals similarly applied in affirming. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court and Court of Appeals misapplied the independent duty doctrine to bar Elcon's tort claims in this case. The Court found Elcon's claims failed factually. Viewing the facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to Elcon, no genuine issues of material fact existed with respect to Elcon's fraud in the inducement or tortious interference claims. The Court affirmed on different grounds reached by the trial and appeals courts. View "Elcon Constr., Inc. v. E. Wash. Univ." on Justia Law

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This issue before the Supreme Court in this case involved two different statutory schemes awarding attorney fees. One scheme, RCW 7.06.050-.060, discourages frivolous appeals from mandatory arbitration. The other scheme, RCW 4.84.250-.300, encourages parties to settle before going to court in cases where the amount in controversy is $10,000 or less by allowing a plaintiff to recover attorney fees if the plaintiff makes an offer of settlement at least 10 days before the initial trial, the offer is rejected, and the plaintiff recovers more than was offered. The question before the Court was whether the second scheme may be invoked for the first time 10 days before a trial de novo, rather than 10 days before the arbitration hearing, by a plaintiff that appealed an arbitration decision. After success at the trial de novo, Plaintiffs Patrick Williams and Andrea Harris applied for and received prevailing party attorney fees under RCW 4.84.250. Plaintiffs argued that although they offered to settle for under $10,000 after the mandatory arbitration, RCW 4.84.250-.300 allowed them to recover attorney fees as long as they made their offers 10 days before the trial de novo. The Supreme Court disagreed. The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and held that RCW 4.84.250-.300 applies only to a plaintiff that seeks recovery of $10,000 or less and makes an offer of settlement 10 days before the initial hearing whether it is a trial or an arbitration. View "Williams v. Tilaye" on Justia Law