Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
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Plaintiff-Appellee Preble-Rish Haiti, S.A. filed this case pursuant to Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. It sought to attach assets to secure a partial final arbitration award against the Republic of Haiti and the Bureau de Monétisation de Programmes d’Aide au Developpement (BMPAD). Garnishee BB Energy USA, L.L.C.(BB Energy) admitted to holding credits belonging to BMPAD located in the Southern District of Texas.   Although BB Energy raised BMPAD’s sovereign immunity from prejudgment attachment again, the district court stated it had already decided that issue and cited its August 10, 2021 order. BB Energy appealed the January 4, 2022 order pursuant to the collateral order doctrine   The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling and vacated the writ of attachment. The court explained that to satisfy Section 1610(d), an explicit waiver of immunity from prejudgment attachment must be express, clear, and unambiguous. Anything short of that is insufficient. Here, because there is no such explicit waiver in the contract or elsewhere, the district court erred in concluding BMPAD waived its sovereign immunity from prejudgment attachment. View "Preble-Rish Haiti, S.A. v. BB Energy USA" on Justia Law

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Rusco Operating, L.L.C. and Planning Thru Completion, L.L.C. are two companies that offer an online application (“app”) that connects oil field workers looking for work with oil-and-gas operators looking for workers. The companies seek to intervene here because some app-using workers have opted-in as plaintiffs alleging claims for unpaid overtime, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, against an operator that used the app to hire them. The app companies’ asserted interests in the litigation related to arbitration agreements between them and the workers, their belief that a win by the workers would destroy their business model, and a demand for indemnity allegedly made by Defendant operator for liability it might incur as to Plaintiffs’ claims. The district court found these interests insufficient to justify intervention and denied leave   The Fifth Circuit reversed, concluding that the arbitration agreements at issue give rise to sufficient interest in this action to support the app companies’ intervention. The court explained that Appellants  have shown adequate interest in the subject of this lawsuit by virtue of their contracts with the parties, and “disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the [Intervenors’] ability to protect [their] interest.” Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 24(a)(2). By contrast, no other party in this action will adequately represent the Intervenors’ interest. They should therefore be allowed to intervene of right. View "Field v. Rusco Operating" on Justia Law

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Appellant is a pipeline-inspection company that hires inspectors and sends them to work for its clients. When Plaintiff was hired, Appellant had him sign an Employment Agreement that contained an arbitration clause. That arbitration provision explained that Plaintiff and Appellant agree to arbitrate all claims that have arisen or will arise out of Plaintiff’s employment. Appellant staffed Plaintiff on a project with Defendant, a diversified energy company that stores and transports natural gas and crude oil.   Alleging that the Fair Labor Standards Act entitled him to overtime pay, Plaintiff filed a collective action against Defendant; he brought no claims against Appellant. Appellant moved to intervene. The magistrate judge granted that motion, explaining that Appellant met the criteria for both permissive intervention and intervention as of right. Appellant claimed that it was an “aggrieved party” under Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and thus could compel arbitration. The magistrate judge rejected all the motions. The district court affirmed.   The Fifth Circuit dismissed for lack of jurisdiction Appellant’s appeal. The court held that Appellant is not an aggrieved party under Section 4 of the FAA and cannot compel arbitration. The court explained it is only where the arbitration may not proceed under the provisions of the contract without a court order that the other party is really aggrieved. Here, Plaintiff only promised to arbitrate claims brought against Appellant. Claiming that Plaintiff did not arbitrate its claims with Defendant is therefore not an allegation that he violated his agreement with Appellant. View "Hinkle v. Phillips 66 Company" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a foreign oil company, contracted with Ecuador to develop an oil-rich region of the rainforest. Defendant paid its Ecuadorian employees a sizable portion of its annual profits. The government canceled the exploration contract and expropriated Occidental’s property, leading to massive losses. Profits and profit-sharing abruptly ceased. Occidental sought arbitration and, a decade later, received a nearly billion-dollar settlement from Ecuador. Plaintiffs, a group of Occidental’s former Ecuadorian employees, then sued Occidental, claiming the arbitration settlement represented profits they were entitled to share. The district court correctly dismissed the employees’ claims. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs' claims holding that Defendant owes its former employees no shared profits for the relevant year. The court reasoned that under the plain terms of Ecuadorian law, a company’s profit-sharing obligation depends on the profits lawfully declared in its annual tax returns. Plaintiffs maintained that tax returns are “not the exclusive mechanism for determining profit-sharing liability.” However, the court held Ecuador's law is clear that the calculation [of profits shall be conducted on the basis of the declarations or determinations prepared for the payment of Income Tax, and Occidental’s tax returns for the interrupted year of 2006 showed not profits but losses. View "Cisneros Guerrero, et al v. Occidental Petro, et a" on Justia Law

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This case arises from a dispute regarding a joint financial venture between Noble Capital Fund Management, L.L.C. (“Noble”) and US Capital Global Investment Management, L.L.C. (“US Capital”). Noble created two separate funds, collectively the “Feeder Funds."Noble and the Feeder Funds initiated a JAMS arbitration against US Capital, alleging various claims including the breach of contractual and fiduciary duties. US Capital was unable to pay the arbitration fees, and the JAMS panel terminated the arbitration.On November 24, 2020, Noble and the Feeder Funds sued US Capital in Texas state court for various claims including fraud and fraudulent inducement. US Capital appeals the denial of its motion to compel arbitration and stay judicial proceedings and the denial of its motion to transfer.The court explained the Federal Arbitration Act requires that, where a suit is referable to arbitration, judicial proceedings be stayed until arbitration "has been had." Here, there is no arbitration to return this case to and parties may not avoid resolution of live claims by compelling a new arbitration proceeding after the first proceeding failed. Further, the court found no pendent jurisdiction over the denial of the motion to transfer. The court affirmed the district court’s ruling and dismissed the appeal of the district court’s denial of the motion to transfer. View "Noble Capital Fund v. US Capital Global" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of the client company's motion to compel arbitration. In this case, a pipeline inspection firm hired inspectors, and their employment agreement contained an arbitration provision. After the firm sent the inspectors to work for the client company, the inspectors filed suit against the client company under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The court agreed with the district court that the client company could not enforce the arbitration agreement between the inspectors and their firm. The court explained that, where, as here, the parties dispute whether an enforceable arbitration agreement exists between them, it takes a court to decide. Applying Texas contract law and equitable doctrines to this case, the court concluded that the client company cannot enforce the arbitration agreement. View "Newman v. Plains All American Pipeline, LP" on Justia Law

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This case stems from plaintiffs' claim of rights under a 1933 agreement between Standard Oil of California and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a 1949 agreement between the purported ancestors of plaintiffs and the Arabian American Oil Company. Plaintiffs seek to enforce an arbitral award against defendant, Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco), which they were awarded by an Egyptian arbitration panel.After determining that plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration tolled the period for filing a notice of appeal, consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 83(a)(2), the Fifth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions for the district court to dismiss the case based on lack of jurisdiction. The court concluded that Saudi Arabian Oil Company is an instrumentality of a foreign state and is therefore immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA). The court stated that the arbitral proceedings give every appearance of having been a sham, and there exists no agreement among these parties to arbitrate this dispute, or anything else for that matter. The court decided that, instead of denying the petition for enforcement, the case is more properly dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, given that Saudi Aramco qualifies as a foreign state for purposes of the FSIA. View "Al-Qarqani v. Saudi Arabian Oil Co." on Justia Law

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Aviles worked for ADT, installing security systems in customers’ homes; he spied on customers using cameras he had installed. ADT discovered Aviles’s misconduct, fired him, and reported him to the authorities. The Richmonds, citizens of Texas, among Aviles’s victims, sued Aviles and ADT in Texas state court. The Richmonds’ contract with ADT contained an arbitration clause. ADT filed a federal suit under the Federal Arbitration Act, alleging complete diversity between the Richmonds and ADT, which is a citizen of Florida and Delaware.The Fifth Circuit vacated the dismissal of the suit. A federal court can hear a suit to compel arbitration only if it could hear “a suit arising out of the controversy between the parties,” 9 U.S.C. 4. To define that “controversy,” a federal court must “look through” the FAA petition “to the parties’ underlying substantive controversy.” If a federal court could hear a suit arising from that “whole controversy,” then that court can hear the FAA suit. The district court looked through ADT’s federal suit to the Richmonds’ state-court complaint, which named Aviles and ADT as defendants, and concluded that the “whole controversy” included Aviles, ADT, and the Richmonds. Those parties lacked diversity of citizenship because Aviles is from Texas. The district court erred in extending the “whole controversy” analysis to define the “parties” to that controversy. View "ADT, L.L.C. v. Richmond" on Justia Law

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Gezu worked for Charter, 2017-2019. In October 2017, Charter sent an email to all active, non-union employees announcing a new employment-based legal dispute resolution program. The email instructed employees about their right to opt out. The arbitration agreement, which was available in full on Charter’s intranet, required arbitration of all disputes, claims, and controversies that could be asserted in court or before an administrative agency.During his employment, Gezu allegedly suffered discrimination based on his race and national origin and Charter did not take any action to address the discrimination despite being made aware of it. Charter terminated Gezu in May 2019, based on what Gezu alleges were pretextual reasons. Gezu, acting pro se, asserted claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and 42 U.S.C. 1981. The Fifth Circuit affirmed an order granting Charter’s motion to compel arbitration and to dismiss. There was a valid modification to Gezu’s employment contract, consisting of notice and acceptance. View "Gezu v. Charter Communications" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion confirming an Indian arbitration award and enjoined further litigation. In this case, after defendant secured an arbitral award for his maritime injuries, he continued to pursue litigation against the alleged wrongdoers and disputes that there was an enforceable agreement to arbitrate at all.The court rejected defendant's contention that the district court lost its jurisdiction to enforce the award in 2002, when it remanded the pre-arbitration suit to state court. Rather, the court concluded that the remand order lacked preclusive effect and the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to confirm the arbitral award. The court further concluded that it was precluded from from revisiting the issue of whether the deed contains an enforceable arbitration clause. Likewise, defendant's argument that Neptune's signature was required would have fared no better in this court. Finally, the court concluded that the state court's ruling is preclusive on the question of whether the district court erred in barring him from litigating against Talmidge, American Eagle, and Britannia because only Neptune was a party to the deed. View "Neptune Shipmanagement Services PTE, Ltd. v. Dahiya" on Justia Law