Thursday, February 18, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
EMPLOYMENT ARBITRATION: Hatton v. D.R. Horton, Inc. Sequel: Appeal After Arbitration Based on EAF Was Enforced by Mandamus Fails
The enforceability of the arbitration clause contained in D.R. Horton, Inc.'s employee handbook acknowledgment form is again before this Court. In Cause No. 14-06-00262-CV, an interlocutory appeal, and Cause No. 14-06-00284-CV, a petition for writ of mandamus, D.R. Horton seeks relief from the trial court's order denying its motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration clause.Brenda Hatton, the appellee and real party in interest in the subject cases, began working for D.R. Horton in June of 1997 and signed its “Employee Acknowledgment Form" (“EAF") in 2001, which contained, among other matters, the arbitration clause at issue here. In 2005, Hatton filed suit against D.R. Horton, asserting a discrimination claim under the Texas Labor Code and a breach of contract claim. D.R. Horton filed a motion to compel arbitration, and the trial court denied the motion.
In the subject cases, D.R. Horton argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying arbitration because the arbitration clause is valid and covers the parties' dispute. Hatton argues the arbitration provision contained in the EAF is unenforceable because it is illusory, unconscionable, and its terms are too indefinite to form a binding contract. These are the same arguments made and addressed in our opinion issued on November 2, 2006, in D.R. Horton, Inc. v. Brooks, Cause No. 14-06-00099-CV, and In re D.R. Horton, Inc., Cause No. 14-06-00152-CV. In that opinion, we determined the arbitration clause was valid.
We conditionally granted D.R. Horton's petition for a writ of mandamus and dismissed its interlocutory appeal as moot. Because the facts and legal arguments in the subject consolidated cases are the same as those addressed in our November 2, 2006 opinion, that opinion is controlling and we cite the parties to it.For the reasons stated in our November 2, 2006 opinion, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in failing to order Hatton to arbitrate her claims against D.R. Horton pursuant to the arbitration agreement between the parties. Accordingly, we conditionally grant D.R. Horton's petition for writ of mandamus in Cause No. 14-06-00284-CV and direct the trial court to vacate the order denying D.R. Horton's motion to compel and to enter an order compelling the parties to arbitration. The writ will issue only if the trial court fails to comply with this opinion. Having granted full relief under our mandamus jurisdiction, we dismiss as moot D.R. Horton's interlocutory appeal, Cause No. 14-06-00262-CV. See In re D. Wilson Constr. Co., 196 S.W.3d 774, 780 (Tex. 2006) (orig. proceeding).
Petition for Writ of Mandamus Conditionally Granted and Memorandum Opinion filed November 7, 2006.
Panel consists of Chief Justice Hedges, and Justices Yates and Guzman.