Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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After a 2013 fire at the Milwaukee County Courthouse, the county filed a claim with its primary insurer, the State of Wisconsin Local Government Property Insurance Fund. The Fund had engaged Lexington as either its reinsurer or excess insurer (the parties disagree) and maintained a separate insurance policy with Cincinnati Insurance that covered machinery and equipment at the Courthouse. The Fund paid all but a small portion of the county’s claimed losses, filed a reimbursement claim with Lexington, and insisted that the remaining unpaid portion of the county’s claim should be paid by Cincinnati. Pursuant to separate Joint Loss Agreements (JLA) in the county’s policies, the Fund and Cincinnati agreed to arbitrate their dispute. The district court denied Lexington’s motion to be allowed to participate in the arbitration. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Fund policy JLA provides a procedure whereby the parties could “signify” an agreement to arbitrate. No such signals were exchanged between Lexington and any other party; no agreement to arbitrate exists between Lexington and the other insurers. Absent such an agreement, Lexington is not entitled to insert itself into the arbitration between the Fund and Cincinnati. View "State of Wisconsin Local Government Property Insurance Fund v. Lexington Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In 2011 Bankers leased Chicago office space from CBRE. Another tenant, Groupon, needed more office space. CBRE asked Bankers to sublease to Groupon and relocate. Bankers and CBRE signed a Listing Agreement, including terms required by 225 ILCS 454/15-5(a), 15-75. Bankers told CBRE that it wanted to net $7 million from its deals with Groupon and the lessor of the replacement space. CBRE presented Bankers with cost-benefit analyses (CBAs), comparing the costs of leasing new space with the benefits of subleasing the old space to Groupon. A May 2011 CBA showed a net savings of $6.9 million to Bankers from relocating to East Wacker Drive. Bankers responded by subleasing to Groupon and leasing that space. CBRE’s calculation was inaccurate. It omitted Bankers’ promise to give Groupon a $3.1 million tenant improvement allowance. Had Bankers known it would profit by only $3.8 million, it would have rejected the deal; CBRE would not have obtained $4.5 million in commissions. In an arbitration proceeding, the panel issued three “final decisions,” all favoring CBRE, and awarded costs. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The panel exceeded its authority. It was authorized to interpret the contract (Listing Agreement), which did not include the CBAs or a disclaimer contained in the CBAs. View "Bankers Life & Cas/ Ins. Co. v. CBRE, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2013, Calumet River Fleeting fired a boat operator. The Union, which represents operators in three states, filed a grievance. Calumet refused to participate in arbitration. In 2006, Calumet and the Union had signed a memorandum of agreement binding Calumet to the terms of the Great Lakes Floating Agreement, a collective bargaining agreement that covers marine construction. The agreement contained an “evergreen clause” requiring the employer to adhere to the terms of each successive edition of the agreement until the agreement was properly terminated. In September 2008, Calumet terminated its participation in the Floating Agreement, meaning that contractors who were signatories to the Agreement could no longer hire Calumet without violating the Agreement’s subcontracting provision. Less than two years later, Selvick (Calumet’s owner) organized a new company, Selvick Marine, which signed a memorandum of agreement with the Union. The district court granted summary judgment to Calumet, holding that it was no longer a party to any agreement with the Union that might have required arbitration. The Union appealed, arguing that an earlier arbitration award in an unrelated proceeding had found that Calumet was an alter ego of Selvick Marine. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting the alter ego argument. View "Calumet River Fleeting, Inc. v. Int'l Union of Operating​ Eng'rsi" on Justia Law

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Epic Systems sent an email to employees, containing an arbitration agreement mandating that wage-and-hour claims could be brought only through individual arbitration and that the employees waived “the right to participate in or receive money or any other relief from any class, collective, or representative proceeding.” The agreement included a clause stating that if the “Waiver of Class and Collective Claims” was unenforceable, “any claim brought on a class, collective, or representative action basis must be filed in a court of competent jurisdiction.” It stated that employees were “deemed to have accepted this Agreement” if they “continue[d] to work at Epic.”.The following day, Lewis, a “technical writer” at Epic, followed instructions for registering his agreement. Later, Lewis had a dispute with Epic, and sued Epic in federal court, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201, and Wisconsin law. Lewis responded that the arbitration clause interfered with employees’ right to engage in concerted activities for mutual aid and protection and was unenforceable. The district court agreed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed denial of the motion to compel arbitration, finding that the agreement violated the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 151, and is also unenforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1. View "Lewis v. Epic Sys. Corp." on Justia Law

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Central States is multiemployer pension fund. Bulk Transport is a Fund member and made contributions to the pension account of its employee, Loniewski. Bulk had certified that Loniewski was entitled by a collective bargaining agreement to participate in the Fund although the agreement was limited to Bulk’s drivers. Loniewski was a Bulk mechanic for 40 years. Bulk now denies that he was covered and has demanded that Central States refund $49,000 that Bulk had contributed to Loniewski’s pension account between 2002 and 2012. The Fund denied the request and sought a declaratory judgment. The district judge rejected Bulk’s claim. The Multiemployer Pension Plan Amendments Act of 1980 amends ERISA by imposing liabilty on employers who withdraw, partially or completely, from participation in an underfunded multiemployer pension fund, 29 U.S.C. 1381. Central States also assessed Bulk with withdrawal liability of $740,000 for the years 2010 through 2012, which Bulk challenged as excessive. At Bulk’s request, the court barred the Fund from enforcing its rules, which require arbitration of such a dispute by and conforming to the procedures of the American Arbitration Association. The Seventh Circuit affirmed with respect to the refund, but reversed with respect to the arbitration rules. View "Cent. States, SE & SW Areas Pension Funds v. Bulk Transp. Corp." on Justia Law

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Sgouros purchased a “credit score” package from TransUnion. Armed with the number TransUnion gave him, he went to a car dealership and tried to use it to negotiate a favorable loan. The score he had bought, however, was useless: it was 100 points higher than the score pulled by the dealership. Sgouros filed suit, asserting that TransUnion violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681g(f)(7)(A); the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/1; and the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. 407.010, by misleading consumers by failing to inform them that the formula used to calculate their purchased credit scores was materially different from the formula used by lenders. TransUnion moved to compel arbitration, asserting that the website through which Sgouros purchased his product included an agreement to arbitrate. The district court concluded that no such contract had been formed and denied TransUnion’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed after evaluating the website and concluding that TransUnion had not put consumers on notice of the terms of agreement, as required by Illinois law, but actually distracted them from noticing those terms. View "Sgouros v. TransUnion Corp." on Justia Law

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Beverly, a former Abbott employee whose employment was terminated on October 20, 2010, filed suit against Abbott. She alleged that during her employment, Abbott had discriminated and retaliated against her on the basis of her German nationality in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as on the basis of her disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The district court denied Abbott’s motion for summary judgment and the parties engaged in a private mediation. During mediation, the parties signed a handwritten agreement stating that Beverly demanded $210,000 and mediation costs in exchange for dismissing the lawsuit. Abbott later accepted Beverly’s demand and circulated a more formal settlement proposal. After Beverly refused to execute the draft proposal, Abbott moved to enforce the original handwritten agreement. The court found that the parties entered into a binding settlement agreement and granted Abbott’s motion to enforce. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the handwritten agreement was valid and enforceable, since its material terms were clearly conveyed and consented to by both parties, and the existence and content of the draft proposal do not affect enforceability. View "Beverly v. Abbott Labs., Inc." on Justia Law

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Dr. Meinders sued United Healthcare in Illinois state court, alleging that in 2013, United sent him and a number of similarly-situated persons an unsolicited “junk fax” advertising United’s services, which violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), 47 U.S.C. 227, the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act, and amounted to common law conversion. United removed the case to federal court and successfully moved to dismiss for improper venue under Federal Rule of Procedure 12(b)(3), claiming that Meinders had entered into a “Provider Agreement” with a United-owned entity, ACN, in 2006, which bound him to arbitrate his “junk fax” claims in Minnesota. Meinders unsuccessfully moved to strike or, in the alternative, for leave to file a sur-reply addressing the assumption theory and declaration. The Seventh Circuit reversed because the district court premised its dismissal order on law and facts to which Meinders did not have a full and fair opportunity to respond. View "Dr. Robert L. Meinders, D.C. v. UnitedHealthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bowman law firm filed suit in Hendricks County Indiana, to recover Bentrud’s credit card debt owed to Capital One. Months later, Bowman moved for summary judgment. Bentrud responded by invoking the arbitration provision in his credit card agreement. The state court granted Bentrud’s election of arbitration and stayed the case, allowing Bentrud 30 days to initiate arbitration. The American Arbitration Association declined to do the arbitration because Capital One had previously failed to comply with its policy regarding consumer claims. Bentrud failed to meet the 30-day deadline, so that the stay automatically dissolved. Bowman filed a second summary judgment motion. Although the state court granted an extension, Bentrud characterized that motion, as an unfair or unconscionable means of attempting to collect a debt, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692f. Bentrud also claimed that the Annual Percentage Rate on his credit card debt was 13.9%, but when Bowman filed its state court complaint, it averred the applicable interest rate to be 10.65%. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of Bowman, noting that when Bowman filed a second summary judgment motion, it acted consistently with the state court order and that any interest rate violation would be attributable to Capital One, which was not a party. View "Bentrud v. Bowman, Heintz, Boscia & Vicia, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Andermanns obtained mobile phone service from U.S. Cellular in 2000. Their renewable two-year contract was renewed for the last time in 2012. It included an arbitration clause that “survives the termination of this service agreement” and provided that “U.S. Cellular may assign this Agreement … without notice.” In 2013 U.S. Cellular sold the Andermanns’ contract to Sprint, without notice to the Andermanns. Months later Sprint sent Andermanns a letter, informing them of the sale and that their mobile service would be terminated on January 31, 2014 because Andermanns’ phones were not compatible with Sprint’s network. In December Sprint phoned to remind them that their service was about to expire, and added that Sprint had “a great set of offers and devices available to fit [their] needs.” Sprint made six such calls. Andermanns answered none, but filed a purported class action, contending that the unsolicited advertisements contained in the calls violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. 227. Sprint requested arbitration, 9 U.S.C. 4. The district court denied Sprint’s motion. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding connection to the contract, asking: What would Sprint have done if forbidden to call the customers whom it had inherited from U.S. Cellular and must now terminate because of technical incompatibility? View "Andermann v. Sprint Spectrum, L.P." on Justia Law