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

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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CCC and Tractable use algorithms and data generated by repair centers to provide estimates of the cost to repair damaged vehicles. Tractable dispatched its employee to obtain a license for CCC’s software. Using a false name, the employee purported to represent “JA,” a small, independent appraiser. CCC issued a license. The contract forbids assignment of the license without consent and represents that JA is acting on its own behalf, not as an agent for any third party, and forbids disassembly of the software or its incorporation into any other product. Tractable disassembled the software and incorporated some features into its own product. In CCC’s subsequent suit, Tractable moved for arbitration under the agreement between CCC and JA., arguing that “JA” is a name that Tractable uses for itself. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of the motion. Tractable is not a party to the agreement. CCC could not have discovered that Tractable uses the name “JA.” Contractual meaning reflects words and signs exchanged between the negotiators, not unilateral, confidential beliefs. If a misrepresentation as to the character or essential terms of a proposed contract induces conduct that appears to be a manifestation of assent by one who neither knows nor has reasonable opportunity to know of the character or essential terms of the proposed contract, his conduct is not effective as a manifestation of assent.. The identity of CCC’s trading partner was a vital element of the deal. View "CCC Intelligent Solutions Inc. v. Tractable Inc." on Justia Law

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Roe invented a nozzle that transforms gas into liquid. Roe assigned the nozzle to Nano Gas, in exchange for 20% equity in Nano and a board seat. The relationship floundered. Roe left Nano, taking a prototype machine and some of Nano’s intellectual property produced by Hardin, another employee, and continued to develop the technology.An arbitrator determined that Roe should compensate Nano ($1,500,000) but that Roe deserved compensation for his work ($1,000,000) in the form of an offset against Nano's award. The arbitrator noted that Roe remained a Nano shareholder and could benefit financially in the future, then ordered Roe to return the Hardin work-papers to Nano, or, if unable to do that, to pay Nano $150,000. Nano sought to enforce the award and obtained judgment for $650,000. Nano filed a turnover motion seeking Roe’s Nano stock, valued at approximately $117,000. Roe argued that the award explicitly stated he could pay the remaining amount “in such manner as Roe chooses,” and provided he would remain a shareholder.The district court reasoned that Roe could choose how to pay the $500,000 award, but ordered Roe to turn over the stock or identify other assets to satisfy the $150,000 award. The Seventh Circuit reversed regarding Roe’s discretion to satisfy the $500,000 award and affirmed the $150,000 award for the Hardin papers. The award is devoid of any language indicating Roe shall remain a shareholder indefinitely or that Roe has complete discretion to decide if, when, and how Roe pays the award. View "Nano Gas Technologies, Inc. v. Roe" on Justia Law

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K.F.C., age 11, signed up for a Snapchat account. Snapchat's terms specify that a person must be at least 13 to have an account. K.F.C. lied about her age. Before she turned 18, K.F.C. sued, alleging that Snapchat’s features amount to facial recognition, which violates the Illinois Biometric Privacy Act, K.F.C. acknowledges that she accepted Snapchat’s terms but denies that its arbitration clause binds her although she continued using Snapchat after turning 13.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the case. An arbitrator, not a court, must decide whether K.F.C.’s youth is a defense to the contract’s enforcement. While even the most sweeping delegation cannot send the contract-formation issue to the arbitrator, state law does not provide that agreements between adults and children are void but treats such agreements as voidable (capable of ratification), so the age of the contracting parties is a potential defense to enforcement. The Federal Arbitration Act provides that arbitration is enforceable to the extent any promise is enforceable as a matter of state law, 9 U.S.C. 2. A challenge to the validity (as opposed to the existence) of a contract goes to the arbitrator; K.F.C.’s arguments about her youth and public policy concern the contract’s validity, not its existence. View "K.F.C. v. Snap Inc." on Justia Law

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When she began work, Campbell signed a contract with Keagle, the bar’s owner; it included an arbitration clause. After a dispute arose, the district judge denied Keagle’s motion to refer the matter to arbitration, finding several parts of the arbitration clause unconscionable: Keagle had reserved the right to choose the arbitrator and location of arbitration. Campbell had agreed not to consolidate or file a class suit for any claim and to pay her own costs, regardless of the outcome. The judge did not find that the contract was one-sided as a whole. Keagle accepted striking the provisions found to be unconscionable but sought to arbitrate rather than litigate.The Seventh Circuit remanded with instructions to name an arbitrator, reasoning that the mutual assent to arbitration remains. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 4, provides that, absent a contrary agreement, the arbitration takes place in the same judicial district as the litigation; “who pays” may be determined by some other state or federal statute, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, on which Campbell’s suit rests. The chosen arbitrator can prescribe the procedures. Under 9 U.S.C. 5, “if for any … reason there shall be a lapse in the naming of an arbitrator" the court shall designate an arbitrator. View "Campbell v. Keagle Inc" on Justia Law

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Anne and Donald divorced in 1996 after 25 years of marriage. They later reconciled but did not re‐marry, then separated again. Because divorce laws no longer applied, Anne sued Donald in Indiana state court under equitable theories to seek redress for her contributions to the relationship during their second period together. They agreed to binding arbitration. The arbitrator awarded Anne $435,000, half the increase in value of Donald’s retirement savings during their unmarried cohabitation. Donald declared bankruptcy and sought to discharge the arbitrator’s award as a money judgment. Anne argued that the arbitrator had awarded her an interest in specific property so that the award could not be discharged in Donald’s bankruptcy.The bankruptcy court sided with Anne. The district court reversed. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in favor of Donald. Anne was awarded a money judgment, not a property interest. The award does not identify a required source of funds or manner of payment but only lists options for satisfying the obligation. The payment of cash would suffice; the award provided for post-judgment interest. The arbitrator’s award said that “this judgment should not be dischargeable in bankruptcy” but that language is not controlling. View "Harshaw v. Harshaw" on Justia Law

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Okada, “a titan of the gambling industry,” hired Bartlit to represent him in a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit against Wynn Resorts. The litigation settled in Okada’s favor for $2.6 billion. Okada refused to pay the $50 million contingent fee specified in the parties’ engagement agreement, which included an arbitration clause. Bartlit initiated arbitration before CPR in Chicago, the agreed-upon forum. Okada participated in the arbitration for over a year.Less than 72 hours before the evidentiary hearing, Okada informed the arbitrators that he would not be attending. The Panel stated that it would proceed without him and that his nonattendance could subject him to default. Okada replied that he rejected the validity of the engagement agreement and was unable to make the journey from Japan to Chicago for undisclosed medical reasons. Okada announced that he would not authorize his attorneys to participate in the arbitration, and canceled all witnesses, reservations, and services. The Panel held him to be in default and found that Okada owed the firm $54.6 million, including a $963,032 sanction for the costs and fees of the proceeding.Okada moved to vacate the award, arguing that he had been deprived of a fundamentally fair proceeding when the Panel decided the case without his participation or his evidence. The district court and Seventh Circuit rejected his argument. The Panel had several reasonable bases for proceeding without him and there was nothing unfair about the proceeding. View "Bartlit Beck, LLP v. Okada" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a class action complaint under the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA) against the fiduciaries of the retirement plan offered by his former employer, Triad, for alleged financial misconduct.The Seventh Circuit concluded that the ERISA provisions that plaintiff invokes have individual and plan-wide effect. However, the arbitration provision in Triad's defined contribution retirement plan precludes relief that "has the purpose or effect of providing additional benefits or monetary or other relief to any Eligible Employee, Participant or Beneficiary other than the Claimant." Therefore, this provision prohibits relief that ERISA expressly permits. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of Triad's motion to compel arbitration or, in the alternative, to dismiss. View "Smith v. Board of Directors of Triad Manufacturing, Inc." on Justia Law

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Continental’s primary insurance companies covered risks such as mass tort and pollution liability and purchased reinsurance policies from Underwriters. For over 40 years, the parties agreed on the methodology for calculating reinsurance obligations. In 2010, Continental outsourced its claims handling to Resolute, which made higher demands for payment from Underwriters under a new methodology. Underwriters objected and sought arbitration. A panel conducted a hearing and found Continental’s new methodology contrary to the parties’ established course of dealings. Concerned that the Final Award was not clear about Underwriters’ future reinsurance liability obligations, Continental asked the Panel to clarify whether the statement “Petitioners have paid the full amount due” related only to past bills or if it was meant to cover past and future billings. The Panel denied Continental’s motion for clarification but added that Underwriters had "fully and finally discharged its past, present and future obligations" for the accounts. Continental argued the award amounted to a sanction and that the Panel lacked the authority to issue sanctions or penalties.Continental then sought confirmation of the Final Award but vacatur of the subsequent Order, citing the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 9–10. The district court confirmed everything. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting the FAA’s narrow set of reasons that may support a court’s confirmation, vacatur, or modification of an award. View "Continental Casualty Co. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyds of London" on Justia Law

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Onfido provides biometric identification software that is incorporated into its customers’ products and mobile apps for verifying users’ identities. Onfido partnered with OfferUp—an online consumer marketplace—to verify users’ identities. Sosa verified his identity with OfferUp using the technology provided by Onfido—the app’s TruYou feature. To complete the verification process, Sosa uploaded a photograph of his driver’s license and a photograph of his face. Sosa alleges that Onfido then used biometric identification technology without his consent to extract his biometric identifiers and compare the two photographs.Sosa brought class action claims against Onfido under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act. Onfido moved to stay the case and to compel individual arbitration based on an arbitration provision in OfferUp’s Terms of Service. The district court rejected each of Onfido’s nonparty contract enforcement theories and denied Onfido’s motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Onfido failed to establish that there was an outcome-determinative difference between Illinois and Washington law, and the district court properly applied Illinois law—the law of the forum state—to determine that Onfido failed to establish that it was a third-party beneficiary of the Terms of Service or that it could otherwise enforce the contract’s arbitration provision either as an agent of OfferUp or on equitable estoppel grounds. View "Sosa v. Onfido, Inc." on Justia Law

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Meinders offers chiropractic services. United provides or administers insurance plans nationwide. In 2006, Meinders became a “participating provider” with United to expand his customer base; he signed a provider agreement with ACN. which provided administrative and network management services for chiropractors, and had a preexisting master services agreement with United. The agreement allowed ACN, “in its sole discretion,” to “assign its rights, duties or obligations” under the agreement.“ The agreement stated that if a dispute arose, either party “may” submit the issue “to arbitration” and any arbitration decision would be “final and binding.”Meinders submitted claims for United-insured patients directly to United; United paid those claims. Those claims were submitted on United forms and if an explanation of benefits was requested, United provided it. Meinders confirmed a patient’s eligibility either through United’s website or through a United phone number. ACN became a wholly-owned subsidiary of United.In 2013, United sent a fax to Meinders, who believed that United had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and filed suit. After remands, the district court held that “United … assumed the material obligations of ACN …, a wholly-owned subsidiary of United, under the Provider Agreement, which authorizes United to enforce the arbitration clause.” The Third Circuit affirmed. View "Dr. Robert L. Meinders, D.C., Ltd. v. United HealthCare Services, Inc." on Justia Law