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Archive for the ‘United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit’ Category

Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Posner Weighs in on Federal Policy in Favor of Arbitration

May 23rd, 2015 Appellate Practice, Arbitrability, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration as a Matter of Consent, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Class Action Waivers, Contract Interpretation, Federal Arbitration Act Enforcement Litigation Procedure, Federal Policy in Favor of Arbitration, Labor Arbitration, Practice and Procedure, Presumption of Arbitrability, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on Circuit Court Judge Richard A. Posner Weighs in on Federal Policy in Favor of Arbitration

Introduction

Ronald v. Sprint Spectrum L.P., No. 14-3478, slip op. (7th Cir. May 11, 2015) (Posner, J.)

Ronald v. Sprint Spectrum L.P., No. 14-3478, slip op. (7th Cir. May 11, 2015) arose out of a class action lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by a putative class of mobile phone customers—represented by Mr. and Ms. Andermann (the “Andermanns”)—against Sprint, which sought damages for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227.

Sprint moved to compel arbitration, but the district court denied its motion. Sprint appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit as authorized by 9 U.S.C. § 16(a)(1)(B). The Seventh Circuit, in an opinion written by Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner, and joined in by Circuit Judge Diane S. Sykes and Chief District Court Judge Philip P. Simon of the Northern District of Indiana (sitting by designation), reversed and remanded with instructions to compel arbitration.

The Sprint Spectrum facts; the legal rules and principles that determined the outcome; and the outcome itself were not controversial.  Had the court limited its task to applying the material facts to the applicable law, then the case likely would not have warranted a reported opinion.

But occasionally appellate judges, particularly ones as prominent, skilled and engaged as Judge Posner, will use a case like Sprint to make a point in passing that might influence other judges in the future and perhaps provide valuable information to attorneys and their clients. Judge Posner, with the apparent blessing of the other two judges, used the case to make a couple of points, one purely legal, the other bearing on both the law and, and at least to some extent, on matters pertinent to court administration.

The purely legal issue concerned the  proper scope and practical significance of the federal policy in favor of arbitration, which a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Posner and some other judges apparently believe lawyers and judges may misunderstand or misinterpret. In Sprint Spectrum Judge Posner, in dictum, raises the topic and shares some important insights about it.

The hybrid legal and judicial administration point concerned his view of the merits of the underlying Telephone Consumer Protection Act dispute.  While the Court acknowledged that it was for the arbitrators to decide the merits, it nevertheless explained why it believed the claim would likely fail, whether in arbitration or in court.

Sprint Spectrum: Background

yay-985888-digital---CopyIn 2000 the Andermanns entered into a two-year renewable mobile-phone service contract with U.S. Cellular, which was renewed continuously, and for the last time in 2012. The contract contained an arbitration agreement requiring arbitration of “any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this agreement.” The parties agreed that the obligation to arbitrate would “survive[] the termination of [the] [mobile phone] service agreement[,]” and that “U.S. Cellular may assign this Agreement without notice to” the customer.

In 2013 U.S. Cellular sold the contract to Sprint, and notified the Andermanns of the sale in a letter sent months later. The letter informed the Andermanns that their service would be terminated effective January 2014  because of a compatibility problem between the Andermann’s mobile phone and the Sprint network. The letter explained that the Andermanns would have to obtain a new cell phone or find a new carrier, but “that Sprint was offering attractive substitutes for the terminated service,” and, if interested, the customer should contact Sprint by telephone. See slip op. at 2.

In December Sprint phoned the Andermanns 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.'” Slip op. at 3. Sprint called each of three members of the Andermann family twice (a total of six calls), but by the time the calls were made, the Andermanns had obtained cell phone service from another carrier.

yay-10331162-digitalThe Andermanns did not answer any of the six calls, except by commencing a class action lawsuit against Sprint, which contended that the unsolicited calls violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Sprint moved to compel arbitration, contending that the dispute arose out of and related to the contract renewed in 2012. Even though that contract was between U.S. Cellular and the Andermanns, U.S. Cellular had, as permitted by the contract, assigned its rights to Sprint, who had now stepped into U.S. Cellular’s shoes under the contract.

The Seventh Circuit’s Decision

The district court denied Sprint’s motion because its contract with the Andermanns had terminated prior to the allegedly offending telephone calls at issue in the lawsuit. The district court reasoned that the dispute did  not arise out of or relate to the terminated agreement.

But the Court  said “[a]ctually, there’s an intimate relation” between the dispute and the contract. “The contract,” said the Court, authorized an assignment, and because of the incompatibility of the assignor’s (U.S. Cellular’s) cellphones and the assignee’s (Sprint’s) mobile phone network, Sprint had had to terminate the U.S. Cellular customers, such as the Andermanns, whom it had acquired by virtue of the assignment.  .  .  .” Slip op. 4. Sprint made the calls, and “offer[red] substitute service[]”  “to prevent the loss of.  .  .  customers because of the incompatibility.  .  .  .” Slip op. at 4.

yay-10348120-digitalThe Andermanns attempted to support their argument by offering an “untenable interpretation” of Smith v. Steinkamp, 318 F.3d 775, 777 (7th Cir. 2003). See Slip op. at 4. Steinkamp explained “‘absurd results’ would ensue if the arising from and relating to provisions contained in a payday loan agreement defining what disputes would have to arbitrated rather than litigated, were cut free from the loan and applied to a subsequent payday loan agreement that did not contain those provisions.” Slip op. at 4-5 (quoting Steinkamp, 318 F.3d at 777).

The Andermanns argued that Steinkamp suggested that the same type of “absurd results” would ensue under the facts of this case. But Steinkamp, explained the Court, “is not this case[,]” which concerns a single contract containing an arbitration agreement, not two successive contracts, one with an arbitration agreement and one without an arbitration agreement. See slip op. at 5.

yay-2220659-digitalWhile the Andermanns received a mild (and perhaps well-deserved) rebuke, Sprint’s argument prompted the verbal version of a roll of the eyes coupled with a quiet sigh—not so much because there was anything really wrong with the argument, but presumably because it overstated the importance of the federal policy in favor of arbitration. But that gave Judge Posner an opportunity to make a somewhat subtle, but important point.

The Court  said “Sprint gilds the lily, however, in telling us that arbitration is a darling of federal policy, that there is a presumption in favor of it, that ambiguities in an arbitration clause should be resolved in favor of arbitration, and on and on in this vein.” Slip op. at 5. “It’s true,” said the Court, “that such language (minus the “darling”) appears in numerous cases.” Slip op. at 5 (citations omitted): “But the purpose of that language is to make clear, as had seemed necessary because of judges’ historical hostility to arbitration, that arbitration was no longer to be disfavored — especially in labor cases, see, e.g., Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, 561 U.S. 287, 298­-99 (2010), where arbitration is now thought a superior method of dispute resolution to litigation.” Slip op. at 5.

Noting that “[t]he Federal Arbitration Act is inapplicable to labor disputes,  .  .  . and merely makes clauses providing for the arbitration of disputes arising out of transactions involving interstate or foreign commerce.  .  . enforceable in federal and state courts[,]” the Court said it was “not clear that arbitration, which can be expensive because of the high fees charged by some arbitrators and which fails to create precedents to guide the resolution of future disputes, should [in commercial cases] be preferred to litigation.” Slip op. at 5-6. Continue Reading »

Pine Top Receivables, LLC v. Banco De Seguros Del Estado:  The Seventh Circuit Exorcises some Ghosts of Reinsurance Past, but has it Summoned an Erie Ghost of Reinsurance Future?

November 22nd, 2014 Appellate Jurisdiction, Appellate Practice, Arbitrability, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Collateral Requirements for Unauthorized Reinsurance, Contract Interpretation, Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, FAA Chapter 3, Federal Courts, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Insolvency Proceedings, Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, McCarran-Ferguson Act, New York Convention, Panama Convention, Pre-Answer Security, Reinsurance Arbitration, Reinsurance Claims, Reinsurance Litigation, Security Requirements, Unauthorized Reinsurance, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on Pine Top Receivables, LLC v. Banco De Seguros Del Estado:  The Seventh Circuit Exorcises some Ghosts of Reinsurance Past, but has it Summoned an Erie Ghost of Reinsurance Future?

Part II: What Transpired in Pine Top?

 

In our last post on  Pine Top Receivables, LLC v. Banco De Seguros Del Estado, ___ F.3d ___, Nos. 13-1364/2331, slip op. (7th Cir. Nov. 7, 2014) (per curiam) (here), we offered our take on the case and what it might mean, particularly as respects the Court’s suggestion that state pre-answer security statutes may be procedural under the Erie doctrine, possibly inconsistent with federal procedural law and thus inapplicable in diversity cases. Now let’s take a closer look at what transpired in Pine Top, for even apart from the Court’s allusion to a possible Erie doctrine issue (our Erie ghost of reinsurance future), it involved a number of classic reinsurance issues (our ghosts of reinsurance past), as well as a notable appellate jurisdiction issue and the question whether the assignee of the insolvent ceding company acquired the right to demand arbitration against the reinsurer.  Continue Reading »

Pine Top Receivables, LLC v. Banco De Seguros Del Estado: The Seventh Circuit Exorcises some Ghosts of Reinsurance Past, but has it Summoned an Erie Ghost of Reinsurance Future?    

November 19th, 2014 Appellate Jurisdiction, Appellate Practice, Arbitrability, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Contract Interpretation, FAA Chapter 3, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Insolvency Proceedings, Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, McCarran-Ferguson Act, Nuts & Bolts: Reinsurance, Panama Convention, Practice and Procedure, Pre-Answer Security, Reinsurance Litigation, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on Pine Top Receivables, LLC v. Banco De Seguros Del Estado: The Seventh Circuit Exorcises some Ghosts of Reinsurance Past, but has it Summoned an Erie Ghost of Reinsurance Future?    

In Pine Top Receivables, LLC v. Banco De Seguros Del Estado, ___ F.3d ___, Nos. 13-1364/2331, slip op. (7th Cir. Nov. 7, 2014) (per curiam) the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit addressed a trio of issues that—once upon a time at least—arose fairly frequently in reinsurance litigation: pre-answer security; immunity from posting security, courtesy of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (the “FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1602-11 (2013); and the effect of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1011-­15 (2013), this time whether a state pre-answer security statute can reverse preempt the FSIA.

It did so in the somewhat unusual context of Chapter 3 of the Federal Arbitration Act, which implements the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration (a/k/a the “Panama Convention”). That raised an arcane issue of appellate jurisdiction, which appears to have been caused by Congress failing to amend the appellate jurisdiction provisions of Chapter 1 (codified at 9 U.S.C. § 16 (2013)) to reflect Congress’ enactment of Chapter 3.

Throw in an assignment agreement between the insolvent cedent and a contract interpretation dispute over whether the cedent’s assignee purchased the right to compel arbitration under the reinsurance treaties between the insolvent cedent and the Uruguay-owned reinsurance company, and we have something that might appear to resemble a perfect storm of reinsurance and arbitration-related issues. Continue Reading »

New York Law Journal Article: “Arbitrator Evident Partiality Standard Under Scrutiny in ‘Scandinavian Re'”

May 20th, 2011 Appellate Practice, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Ethics, Evident Partiality, Grounds for Vacatur, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Arbitration, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on New York Law Journal Article: “Arbitrator Evident Partiality Standard Under Scrutiny in ‘Scandinavian Re'”

On May 18, 2011 the New York Law Journal published in its Outside Counsel section an article I wrote, which argues that the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit should reverse the district court’s judgment in Scandinavian Reinsurance Co. v. Saint Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co.,  No. 09 Civ. 9531(SAS), 2010 WL 653481, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 23, 2010), appeal pending No. 10-910-cv (2d Cir.). 

The article is reprinted below with permission, and I would like to thank Elaine Song, a member of the New York Law Journal’s editorial staff, for her assistance and work in getting this published in New York’s leading legal trade publication.   Continue Reading »

The Seventh Circuit Issues a Landmark Reinsurance Arbitration Opinion in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.): Part III.A

March 9th, 2011 Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Awards, Ethics, Evident Partiality, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Arbitration, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York Comments Off on The Seventh Circuit Issues a Landmark Reinsurance Arbitration Opinion in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.): Part III.A

Should the Second Circuit Reverse the District Court’s Judgment in Scandinavian Reinsurance Co. v. Saint Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co.?

I.       Introduction

Parts I and II of this three-part post discussed Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook’s decision in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.), No. 09-3682, 2011 WL 285156 (7th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011), and said that Trustmark, in conjunction with  Sphere Drake Ins. Co. v. All American Life Ins. Co., 307 F.3d 617, 622 (7th Cir. 2002) (Easterbrook, J.),  demonstrates that the district court should not have vacated on evident partiality grounds the arbitration award in Scandinavian Reinsurance Co. v. Saint Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co, No. 09 Civ. 9531(SAS), 2010 WL 653481 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 23, 2010).     This Part III.A explains some of the reasons why that is so.  Continue Reading »

The Seventh Circuit Issues a Landmark Reinsurance Arbitration Opinion in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.): Part II

February 24th, 2011 Arbitrability, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Evident Partiality, Practice and Procedure, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Comments Off on The Seventh Circuit Issues a Landmark Reinsurance Arbitration Opinion in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.): Part II

I.  Introduction

Part I (here) briefly discussed Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook’s decision in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.), No. 09-3682, slip op. (7th Cir. Jan. 31, 2011), and its implications on the pending Second and Fifth Circuit appeals in  Scandinavian Reinsurance Co. v. Saint Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co, No. 09 Civ. 9531(SAS), 2010 WL 653481 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 23, 2010), and Dealer Computer Svcs., Inc. v. Michael Motor Co., No. H-10-2132, slip op. (S.D. Tex. December 29, 2010).  This Part II examines in some detail Trustmark’s background and rationale, and Part III will focus on Trustmark’s implications on the Scandinavian Re and Dealer Computer appeals.

II.  Trustmark Background

The following facts were gleaned from both the district court and Seventh Circuit opinions (the district court opinion is reported at 680 F. Supp. 2d 944 and can be found here): Continue Reading »

The Seventh Circuit Issues a Landmark Reinsurance Arbitration Opinion in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.)

February 23rd, 2011 Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Evident Partiality, Grounds for Vacatur, Practice and Procedure, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Comments Off on The Seventh Circuit Issues a Landmark Reinsurance Arbitration Opinion in Trustmark Ins. Co. v. John Hancock Life Ins. Co. (U.S.A.)

Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit is not only a brilliant judge, writer and law professor, but a master of (among many other things) arbitration law.  He understands better than most judges how commercial arbitration is supposed to work, what the Federal Arbitration Act is supposed to achieve, and how to implement the Act to ensure the parties get not only what they bargained for, but also the potential to realize the benefits that private, voluntary dispute resolution can offer.  His arbitration-law opinions are clearly written, imbued with common and commercial sense, and seem purposely designed to make sometimes elusive concepts readily understandable to courts, arbitrators, parties and counsel.  They tend to ensure that the objective, reasonable expectations of the parties are enforced, not frustrated.  Continue Reading »

More on Final Awards: Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois v. Organon Teknika Corp. LLC

August 20th, 2010 Appellate Practice, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Final Awards, Functus Officio, Practice and Procedure, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Comments Off on More on Final Awards: Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois v. Organon Teknika Corp. LLC

A.   Introduction

Regular readers have heard us preach about the importance of knowing arbitration law cold (here), understanding and identifying when an arbitration award is final (here), and being keenly aware of Federal Arbitration Act deadlines (here).  The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently decided a case that illustrates these points well.  See Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois v. Organon Teknika Corp. LLC, ___ F.3d ___, slip op. (7th Cir. July 27, 2010) (Easterbrook, C.J.). 

The Court held that, in the circumstances, an arbitration award was final notwithstanding a provision in the award that said the arbitrator reserves his right to change his mind.  But there is more to it than that.  Continue Reading »

The Agency Model of Arbitral Power: University of Chicago Law School Law and Economics Professor Tom Ginsburg Explains Why Deferential Review Does Not Necessarily Make Arbitration an Effective Substitute for Adjudication

April 7th, 2010 Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Grounds for Vacatur, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on The Agency Model of Arbitral Power: University of Chicago Law School Law and Economics Professor Tom Ginsburg Explains Why Deferential Review Does Not Necessarily Make Arbitration an Effective Substitute for Adjudication

In George Watts & Son v. Tiffany & Co., 248 F.3d 577 (7th Cir. 2001), then Circuit Judge (now Chief Judge) Frank H. Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said:   “What the parties may do, the arbitrator as their mutual agent may do.”  248 F.3d at 581.   Chief Judge Easterbrook made this statement in the course of defining the “manifest disregard” standard of review.  Applying his “agency model,” he concluded that “the ‘manifest disregard’ principle is limited to two possibilities:  an arbitral order requiring the parties to violate the law.  .  . , and an arbitral order that does not adhere to the legal principles specified by contract, and hence unenforceable under § 10(a)(4).”   Id

Chief Judge Easterbrook’s “agency” model of arbitral authority is instructive.  Just as agents derive their authority by the consent of the principal (subject to the rules of apparent and implied authority), arbitrators derive their authority from the parties via the arbitration agreement and the submission.  Subject to any restrictions in the arbitration agreement, the arbitrators’ powers to resolve a dispute under a broad arbitration agreement are arguably co-extensive with those of the parties that appointed them. 

But the model is not perfect.  First, unlike agents, arbitrators are not subject to the control of their principals and owe them no fiduciary duties.  Second, analogizing arbitrators as agents of the parties in the way Chief Judge Easterbrook does effectively empowers arbitrators not only to decide cases, but to negotiate settlements that the parties could have entered into.  It therefore does not require arbitrators to even arguably interpret the contract or apply the law:  As long as the arbitrators do not require the parties to violate the law, and as long as the arbitrators are at least arguably faithful to the parties’ expressed choice-of-law, if any, they can reach whatever decision they wish, whether by application of facts to legal norms or by a compromise settlement that may or may not be rooted in the parties’ agreement.    That arguably does not comport with the parties’ presumed, legitimate expectations.  For the arbitrator’s job is to decide cases; settlement is a matter for the parties, and should be subject to the parties’ control. 

University of Chicago Law School Professor Tom Ginsburg has written an excellent white paper that argues that the deferential standard of review espoused by Watts and other courts does not necessarily make arbitration an attractive substitute for litigation.  See Tom Ginsburg, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 502 (2d Series), The Arbitrator as Agent: Why Deferential Review Is Not Always Pro-Arbitration  (Dec. 2009) (copy available here).  He argues that a more searching standard of review would make the market for arbitrators more transparent, and thus more effective.  He advocates using Chief Judge Easterbrook’s agency model as an analytical framework for allowing parties to choose whether they prefer a very deferential standard of review, like that prescribed in Watts; something akin to de novo review, like that available in litigation; or something in between the two.  Professor Ginsburg is in the process of publishing in the University of Chicago Law Review an article based on his white paper. Continue Reading »

United States Supreme Court Update: Union Pacific and Granite Rock Labor Arbitration Cases

October 11th, 2009 Authority of Arbitrators, Labor Arbitration, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States Supreme Court 1 Comment »

Introduction

So far the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear only one arbitration case governed by the Federal Arbitration Act:  Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., 548 F.3d 85 (2d Cir. 2009), petition for cert. granted June 15, 2009 (No. 08-1198), which has been set for oral argument at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, December 9, 2009.   (See Russ Kunkel’s LawMemo Arbitration Blog  here.)  We have written extensively on Stolt-Nielsen, which concerns whether class arbitration may be imposed on parties whose contracts are silent on that point.  (Posts available here,  here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear two labor arbitration cases.  The first is Union Pacific Railroad Co. v. Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (08-604), which is governed by the the Railway Labor Act (“RLA”), 45 U.S.C. §§151 et seq.  The RLA, among other things, requires arbitration before the National Railroad Adjustment Board (“the Board”) of labor disputes involving railway workers.  Union Pacific, for all practical purposes, is therefore not a contractual arbitration case, but an administrative law one, and the outcome will likely have  little or no effect on Federal Arbitration Act jurisprudence.  The Court held oral argument on October 7, 2009.  (Oral argument Tr. here

The second is Granite Rock Co. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (08-1214), which arises under Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act.  The Court is expected to set argument for later this Fall.  (See Russ Kunkel’s LawMemo Employment Law Blog here.)   Though not governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, Granite Rock, unlike Union Pacific, is a contractual arbitration case.  And the outcome may be relevant to cases falling under the Federal Arbitration Act. 

We briefly summarize below the issues the Court will presumably address in these labor arbitration cases and discuss why Granite Rock may be more controversial than it appears at first blush.    Continue Reading »