Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
Glacier Park Iron Ore Properties, LLC, v. United States Steel Corp.
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court determining that the district court, and not the arbitrator, was to decide whether the parties' dispute was subject to arbitration, holding that the district court correctly concluded that the parties' dispute was not subject to arbitration.Glacier Park Iron Ore Properties, LLC alleged that United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) aided and abetted a breach of the fiduciary duty of Great Northern Iron Ore Properties Trust and sought recession of a lease that U.S. Steel signed with the Trust. Glacier Park filed a motion to stay proceedings pending arbitration and to compel the parties to engage in arbitration. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the court, not arbitrators, should decide the meaning of the arbitration clause at issue in this case and, thus, the arbitrability of the dispute. The district court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because there was not clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties intended to delegate arbitrability to the arbitrator, whether the parties' breach of fiduciary claim was arbitrable was a question for the court. View "Glacier Park Iron Ore Properties, LLC, v. United States Steel Corp." on Justia Law
Rodriguez v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.
In this case filed by a bus driver who sought reimbursement for chiropractic services related to her work-related injury the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals to reinstate Plaintiff's arbitration award after the district court vacated the award, holding that a provision in the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Act, Minn. Stat. 176.83, subd. 5(c), did not bar coverage.Plaintiff's employer's workers' compensation carrier agreed to pay workers' compensation benefits to Plaintiff but refused to pay for more than twelve weeks of chiropractic care in accordance with the treatment parameters adopted for purposes of the Act. In accordance with that decision, Plaintiff's first chiropractor stopped treatment after twelve weeks of providing care. Plaintiff then received additional care from a different chiropractor. It was for this care that Plaintiff sought reimbursement from State Farm, her personal automobile no-fault insurer. State Farm denied coverage. An arbitrator ruled in favor of Plaintiff and awarded her the full amount she sought. The district court vacated the arbitrator's award, and the court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the statutory prohibition on reimbursement in section 176.83, subd. 5(c) is limited to the first provider whose services the workers' compensation payer determined to be excessive. View "Rodriguez v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law
City of Richfield v. Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s denial of the City of Richfield’s motion to vacate an arbitration award reinstating Nathan Kinsey, a police officer, after the City discharged him for failing to report his use of force and violating other policies, holding that enforcing the arbitration award does not violate a well-defined and dominant public policy.The arbitrator ordered reinstatement after finding that Kinsey did not use excessive force and his decision not to report the use of force was a “lapse in judgment,” and therefore, the City did not have just cause to discharge Kinsey. The district court denied the City’s motion to vacate the award. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that enforcement of the award would violate well-defined and dominant public policies against excessive force. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that reinstatement of Kinsey does not violate any public policy. View "City of Richfield v. Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Arbitration & Mediation
Woischke v. Stursberg & Fine, Inc.
The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court that concluded that a fee agreement between the parties was not void and thus ordering arbitration, holding that the district court erred by directing entry of final judgment rather than staying the proceedings, and therefore, there was no proper final judgment from which to take an appeal.Plaintiffs sued Defendants after learning that Defendants had provided brokerage services to Plaintiffs without the requisite state license. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that the fee agreement obligating Defendants to pay for the services provided was void as against public policy. Defendants, in turn, moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the fee agreement and to dismiss or to stay the underlying proceedings. The district court ordered arbitration and dismissed the case, concluding that the fee agreement was not void. The court of appeals reversed, determining that the fee agreement was void. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision, holding that the district court erred by dismissing the case instead of staying proceedings and that the court of appeals erred when it concluded that it had jurisdiction over the merits of this case. View "Woischke v. Stursberg & Fine, Inc." on Justia Law
City of Rochester v. Kottschade
In this arbitration dispute, the district court erred by directing the entry of final judgment rather than staying the proceeding, and the court of appeals, faced with a final appealable judgment, should have vacated the judgment and entered a stay of the underlying action pending completion of the arbitration.Plaintiff sued Defendants to stop arbitration proceedings after Defendants demanded arbitration and an arbitrator determined that the dispute was arbitrable. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants and compelled arbitration. Instead of staying the underlying action, the district court directed the entry of judgment. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the district court’s order was a final judgment because it dismissed, rather than stayed, the underlying proceeding. The court of appeals disagreed and dismissed the appeal as taken from a nonfinal order and judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court erred by directing the entry of final judgment rather than staying the proceeding, as required by Minn. Stat. 572B.07(f); and (2) the proper course for the court of appeals, faced with a final judgment that was appealable under Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 103.03(a), was to direct the district court to vacate the judgment and enter a stay of the underlying action pending completion of the arbitration. View "City of Rochester v. Kottschade" on Justia Law
Seagate Tech., LLC v. W. Digital Corp.
After Sining Mao left his employment with Seagate Technology, LLC, Mao joined Seagate’s competitor, Western Digital Corporation. Seagate subsequently commenced a district court action alleging that Mao stole Seagate’s trade secrets and confidential information and provided it to Western Digital. Western Digital invoked an arbitration clause in Mao’s employment agreement with Seagate. Before the arbitration hearing, Seagate brought a motion for sanctions against Western Digital and Mao (Appellants) based on alleged fabrication of evidence. An arbitrator issued an award against Appellants in an amount exceeding $500 million. The district court vacated the award in part, but the court of appeals reinstated the award. On appeal, Appellants argued that the arbitrator’s exceeded his authority by issuing punitive sanctions and prejudiced Appellants by refusing to hear evidence material to the controversy. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision reinstating and confirming the arbitration award in full, holding that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority or refuse to hear material evidence as required for vacatur. View "Seagate Tech., LLC v. W. Digital Corp." on Justia Law
Fernow v. Gould
A snowplow driver for the City of Alexandria collided with Donald Fernow's vehicle. Fernow brought a personal injury action against the City. At the same time, Fernow's insurance company (Insurer) sought arbitration against the City, seeking repayment in basic economic loss benefits paid to Fernow. In the personal injury action, the district court denied the City's motion for summary judgment on the basis that Fernow's claim was barred by statutory discretionary immunity, common law official immunity, and statutory snow and ice immunity. The court of appeals affirmed. Meanwhile, the arbitrator awarded Insurer basic economic loss benefits, concluding that the defense of governmental statutory immunity did not apply to the matter because of the denial of the City's motion for summary judgment. The district court confirmed the award. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the arbitrator exceeded her authority when she determined that the defense of governmental statutory immunity did not apply to the matter. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that claims of immunity, including necessary questions of fact, should be determined by the district court prior to arbitration on the merits under the Minnesota No-Fault Automobile Insurance Act. Remanded.View "Fernow v. Gould" on Justia Law
Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Second Chance Invs., LLC
Second Chance Investments, LLC (SCI) purchased a fire insurance policy from Auto-Owners Insurance Company (Auto-Owners) that covered a building with the limit of insurance set at $2,095,500. The building subsequently suffered extensive fire damage. SCI filed a proof of loss claiming the building was a total loss. Auto-Owners rejected the proof of loss, contending that it did not state the actual cash value of the loss as required by the policy or provide a written estimate of repair to support the claim. After a continued dispute over whether the property was a total loss, Auto-Owners ultimately filed a complaint in district court seeking an order compelling SCI to submit the issue of whether the building was a total loss to a binding determination by an appraisal panel. The district court denied Auto-Owners' motion to compel appraisal and dismissed its complaint. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that a court, rather than an appraisal panel, is the appropriate forum to determine whether the property suffered a total loss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a party to a fire insurance policy does not have the statutory right to have an appraisal panel decide whether a claim involves a total loss. View "Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Second Chance Invs., LLC" on Justia Law
Remodeling Dimensions, Inc., v. Integrity Mut. Ins. Co.
A home remodeling contractor (Contractor) received a demand for arbitration regarding allegedly defective work it performed on a remodeling project. Contractor's insurer (Insurer) accepted defense of the claim under a reservation of rights. The arbitrator issued an arbitration award in favor of the homeowners. When Insurer refused to pay the award, Contractor paid the homeowners and sued Insurer for indemnification under the policy. The district court granted Contractor's motion for summary judgment, concluding that a vague arbitration award made it impossible to determine whether the insurance policy covered any of the homeonwers' successful claims and was directly attributable to the inaction of the attorney appointed by Insurer to represent Contractor. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a portion of the homeowners' claim may be covered under the policy; (2) Insurer was not vicariously liable of the absence of an explanation of the arbitration award; and (3) Insurer was directly liable to Contractor for the failure of the attorney to request an explanation of the arbitration award to determine what portion of the award, if any, was for the covered claim. Remanded. View "Remodeling Dimensions, Inc., v. Integrity Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Western National Insurance Co. v. Thompson
Appellants Bruce and Cindy Thompson filed a claim for basic economic loss benefits against their insurer, Respondent Western National Insurance Company (Western National), arising from injuries they sustained in an automobile accident. Western National paid some benefits, but a dispute arose over the Thompsonsâ obligation to submit to examinations requested by Western National. The Thompsons filed for no-fault arbitration, and Western National moved to stay the arbitration in order to seek a declaratory judgment in the district court. The arbitrator entered awards in favor of the Thompsons. In court, Western National moved for summary judgment, and the Thompsons moved to confirm their awards. The district court denied Western Nationalâs motion and confirmed the awards, concluding that the reasonableness of the Thompsonsâ refusal to attend the examinations was an issue handled by the arbitrator. The appellate court reversed, concluding that the examination question was a question of law for the court to decide. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court, holding that the examination issue was a question of fact for the arbitrator. The Court reinstated the arbitration awards in favor of the Thompsons.