Nguyen v. Applied Medical Resources Corp.

An order compelling arbitration of individual wage and hour claims, dismissing class claims, and staying PAGA claims—all arising from the same factual allegations—is not a death knell order and so is not immediately appealable, since other employees may use a judgment on those claims as collateral estoppel to bring their own suits, and the continued existence of the PAGA claims gives the plaintiff adequate incentive to continue the litigation.  Following Young v. RemX, Inc. (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 630, this decision holds that an order compelling arbitration of individual wage and hour claims, dismissing class claims, and staying PAGA claims, all arising from the same factual allegations, is not a death knell order and so is not immediately appealable.  Though only the state recovers directly on PAGA claims, other employees may use a judgment on those claims as collateral estoppel to bring their own suits, and the continued existence of the PAGA claims gives the plaintiff adequate incentive to continue the litigation.  Following Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc. (2016) 62 Cal.4th 1237, this decision holds that not providing a copy of the arbitration rules to the adhering party does not increase the level of procedural unconscionability unless, as in Trivedi v. Curexo Technology Corp. (2010) 189 Cal.App.4th 387 and similar cases, the adhering party claims there is something unfair or unconscionable about the arbitration rules themselves, rather than the arbitration clause.  Following Roman v. Superior Court (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 1462, in holding that an arbitration clause in an employment contract which said “I agree” to arbitrate all disputes did not lack mutuality when the rest of the arbitration provision clearly covered all disputes by the employer as well as the employee.  “The mere inclusion of the words ‘I agree‘ by one party in an otherwise mutual arbitration provision does not destroy the bilateral nature of the agreement.”  Unlike Nyulassy v. Lockheed Martin Corp. (2004) 120 Cal.App.4th 1267, the arbitration agreement in this case did not require only the employee to initiate informal dispute resolution before seeking arbitration and so was not unconscionable under Nyulassy‘s “free peek” (at the adhering party’s claims) rationale.  Following Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc. (2016) 1 Cal.5th 233, this decision holds that when the arbitration clause is ambiguous as to whether it permits class-wide arbitration and is broadly phrased to require arbitration of all disputes, the issue of whether classwide arbitration is permissible is to be decided by the arbitrator, not the courts

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3 (Moore, J.); October 4, 2016 (published October 14, 2016); 2016 WL 6070989

 

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