On April 27, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Stolt-Nielsen v. AnimalFeeds, 08-1198. The Court held that “Imposing class arbitration on parties who have not agreed to authorize class arbitration is inconsistent with the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U. S. C. §1 et seq.”
On June 1, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company v. Montana, 09-911. The question presented was whether the Montana Supreme Court violated the Federal Arbitration Act by refusing to compel arbitration of a dispute between tobacco companies and settling states that courts of other states and territories held arbitrable under the plain terms of the nationwide Master Settlement Agreement.
On June 21, the Court decided Rent-A-Center, West v. Jackson, 09-497. The question presented was whether a district court is required in all cases to determine claims that an arbitration agreement subject to the Federal Arbitration Act (”FAA”) is unconscionable, even when the parties to the contract have clearly and unmistakably assigned this “gateway” issue to the arbitrator for decision?
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Granite Rock v. Teamsters, 08-1214. In their decision, the Court held that a district court, not an arbitrator, should decide a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) ratification date. The court noted that although “[t]he CBA requires arbitration of disputes that ‘arise under’ the agreement. The parties’ ratification-date dispute does not clearly fit that description.”
On October 4, the Court denied certiorari in two unpublished cases from the 5th Circuit. In Louisiana Safety Association of Timbermen – Self Insurers Fund v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, et. al, 09-945, (No. 06-30262, 5th Circuit, November 9, 2009, unpublished), the Court was asked to consider whether Chapter 2 of the FAA is an “Act of Congress” subject to the anti-preemption provision of the McCarran-Ferguson Act. Zurich American Insurance Company et. al v. Pioneer Natural Resources USA, Inc., 09-1305, (No. 09-31031, 5th Circuit, December 17, 2009, unpublished) asked whether, in a case removed under the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C. § 205, an order denying a motion to compel arbitration and remanding to state court is appealable under the FAA’s express right of interlocutory appeal from such denials, 9 U.S.C. § 16(a)(1)(C), notwithstanding 28 U.S.C. § 1447(d).
On November 9, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 09-893, a class-wide arbitration case from the 9th Circuit. AT&T concerns the applicability of state law unconscionability defenses to class arbitration exclusion clauses in consumer arbitration agreements. Disputing will be keeping an eye out in 2011 for the Court’s opinion.
Finally, on December 13, the Court denied certiorari in Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. Lagstein, 10-534. The case sought to address whether a “manifest disregard of the law” standard of review for arbitration awards remains after the Court’s decision in Hall Street Associates, L.L.C v. Mattell, Inc., 552 U.S. 576 (2008).