Sunday, July 5, 2009

In Re Macy's Texas, Inc. (Tex. 2009)

In this case the Texas Supreme Court held, in an opinion issued June 26, that an employee must arbitrate her claim against her employer for personal injuries sustained at work even though the acknowledgment of the arbitration agreement was not signed until after the employee's injury occurred. The court did not mention federal preemption in its short per curiam opinion. The Court did not find a discrepancy in the identification of the employer significant because the arbitration agreement referred to “your particular employer.” The employer had only offered a conclusory affidavit in an effort to establish the relationship between the different corporate entities in the case. The lower appellate court, by contrast, had denied mandamus relief for that reason. EXCERPTS FROM THE SUPREME COURT'S PER CURIAM OPINION: The Plan’s effective date predated her injury, even though her Acknowledgment did not. As it is undisputed that the Plan adopted the Federal Arbitration Act, the limitations on such post-injury agreements in the Texas Act do not apply. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 171.002(c) (prohibiting post-injury arbitration agreements unless signed by each party’s attorney). * * * [T]he Plan itself stated that “the Company” would mean “your particular employer.” This definition is certainly nonspecific, but it serves to avoid the kind of disputes about corporate divisions and affiliates that Tomsic tries to raise here. The FAA contains no requirements for the form or specificity of arbitration agreements except that they be in writing; it does not even require that they be signed. See 9 U.S.C. § 2; Seawright v. Am. Gen. Fin. Servs., Inc., 507 F.3d 967, 978 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing cases from the 2nd, 5th, 7th, and 10th Circuits). But in this case the defendant’s affidavit establishes that the Acknowledgment was signed “For the Company” by an assistant manager at the Macy’s store where Tomsic worked. Tomsic offers no explanation why she would agree with anyone other than her employer on a health-benefits plan or arbitration for on-the-job injuries. Her suit asserts failure to provide proper equipment and a safe workplace — both nondelegable duties owed by her employer. See Gen. Elec. Co. v. Moritz, 257 S.W.3d 211, 215 (Tex. 2008). As Tomsic agreed to arbitrate with her employer and purported to sue her employer, she cannot avoid arbitration by raising factual disputes about her employer’s correct legal name. Accordingly, without hearing oral argument, Tex. R. App. P. 52.8(c), we conditionally grant the petition for writ of mandamus and direct the trial court to enter an order compelling arbitration. We are confident the trial court will comply, and our writ will issue only if it does not. CASE DETAILS AND LINKS TO OPINIONS AND DOCKET SHEETS: IN RE MACY'S TEXAS, INC.; No.08-0584 (Tex. Jun. 26, 2009) (per curiam) (arbitration mandamus granted) (motion to compel arbitration should have been granted) (dispute over correct identification of employer in connection with arbitration agreement under the FAA) (conclusory affidavit as to entity name and identity) IN RE MACY'S TEXAS, INC.; from Bexar County; 4th district (04-08-00469-CV, ___ SW3d ___, [per curiam opinion of the San Antonio Court of Appeals denying mandamus relief] 07-23-08) stay order issued October 10, 2008 lifted. Pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 52.8(c), without hearing oral argument, the Texas Supreme Court conditionally grants the petition for writ of mandamus. Per Curiam Opinion See Electronic Briefs in IN RE MACY'S TEXAS, INC. (Tex. 2009) COMMENTARY ON THIS CASE BY OTHERS: Texas Supreme Court Rules on Arbitration of Tort Claims in Employment Contract (Disputing blog by Karl Bayer)("The Supreme Court of Texas held that a post-injury arbitration acknowledgment agreement is valid and compelled arbitration of tort claims within the context of an employment contract. . . . Because this case was decided under the Federal Arbitration Act, and not under the Texas Arbitration Act, post-injury arbitration agreements don’t have to be signed by each party’s attorneys.") ID of Party to Arbitration Pact Doesn't Matter, Texas Supremes Hold (Blawgletter® Barry Barnett)("Something bothers Blawgletter about the decision. It looks sloppy. The defect in our view didn't involve a question of an "employer's correct legal name." It instead concerned a basic failure to agree on who the contract binds. The case should have turned on whether the actual defendant also in fact employed the plaintiff. We concede that the court might have decided the mandamus under the doctrine of equitable estoppel, which allows non-signatories of arbitration agreements to enforce them. But it didn't. Sloppy.") RELATED TERMS: FAA, arbitration in the employment context, arbitration of personal injury claims against employer, post-injury waiver of right to litigate in favor of arbitration, arbitration compelled by mandamus, Texas Supreme Court Arbitration Law Decisions, conclusory affidavits

1 comment:

Victoria VanBuren said...

Thank you for mentioning our post on In Re Macy's Texas, Inc.

Victoria VanBuren
Disputing Blog