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Donado v. MRC Express, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

January 4, 2018

Patricia Susana Chahin Donado, Plaintiff,
MRC Express, Inc., Defendant.



         Plaintiff Patricia Susana Chahin Donado brings this suit, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, against the Defendant for failure to pay overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-216 (the “FLSA”). The Defendant has moved to dismiss this case or, in the alternative, stay this matter and compel arbitration (ECF No. 9). For the reasons set for the below, the Court grants the Defendant's motion, compels arbitration, and stays this case.

         1. Legal Standard

         The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) governs the validity of an arbitration agreement and “embodies a liberal federal policy favoring arbitration agreements.” Walthour v. Chipio Windshield Repair, LLC, 745 F.3d 1326, 1329 (11th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations omitted) (citing Caley v. Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., 428 F.3d 1359, 1367 (11th Cir. 2005)). The FAA provides that a written agreement to arbitrate is “valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). “[T]he FAA requires a court to either stay or dismiss a lawsuit and to compel arbitration upon a showing that (a) the plaintiff entered into a written arbitration agreement that is enforceable under ordinary state-law contract principles and (b) the claims before the court fall within the scope of that agreement.” Lambert v. Austin Ind., 544 F.3d 1192, 1195 (11th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         2. Analysis

         In support of its motion, the Defendant provided a copy of a Purchased Transportation Agreement (the “Agreement”) dated July 7, 2017 and signed by the Plaintiff, which governs the terms of the parties' relationship. (Mot. Ex. A, ECF No. 9-1.) The Agreement contains an arbitration clause, which states:

Except as specifically provided in this Agreement, any and all disputes arising under or relating to the interpretation or application of this Agreement, services or work performed by Contractor, Contractor's labor/subs, or Company, or concerning Contractor's or Contractor labor/subs' relationship with Company, shall be subject to final and binding arbitration and not by way of court or jury trail [sic]. Disputes subject to arbitration shall include, but are not limited to . . . payments, unpaid monies, compensation . . . or premised on any alleged employment relationships, and/or any other claims, whether such claims arise under any contract, agreement, statute . . . or any other source.

(Mot. Ex. A. 7, ECF No. 9-1.)

         In opposing the Defendant's motion, the Plaintiff challenges both the scope and validity of the arbitration provision. The Court will address each of the Plaintiff's arguments in turn.

         A. Scope of the Agreement

         The Plaintiff challenges the scope of the arbitration provision by arguing that the Agreement should not apply retroactively to all of the Plaintiff's claims because it was not signed until July 7, 2017. (Resp. 2, ECF No. 13.) Arbitration agreements may apply retroactively in certain circumstances. Ferriol v. Parrillada Las Vacas Gordas, Inc., No. 15-20636, 2015 WL 1968848, at *2 (S.D. Fla. April 30, 2015) (Cooke, J.) (citing Stewart v. Laidlaw & Co. (UK) Ltd, No. 11-22846, 2012 WL 280388, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Jan. 31, 2012) (Cooke, J.)). Where an arbitration agreement is not expressly limited to disputes arising out of that agreement, courts generally hold that it applies retroactively. See, e.g., Belke v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, 693 F.2d 1023, 1028 (11th Cir. 1982), abrogated on other grounds by Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213 (1985) (applying arbitration agreement retroactively because “[a]n arbitration clause covering disputes arising out of the contract or business between the parties evinces a clear intent to cover more than just those matters set forth in the contract.”).

         For example, in Perera v. H&R Block Eastern Enterprises, Inc., 914 F.Supp.2d 1284, 1288 (S.D. Fla. 2012), Judge King held that an arbitration agreement that covered “‘any and all claims or disputes' between Plaintiff and Defendant that in any way relate to his hiring, employment, or termination” was retroactive because the language was expansive and contained no temporal limitation. Similarly, in Ferriol v. Parrillada Las Vacas Gordas, Inc., Judge Cooke held that an arbitration agreement that applied to “‘all employment-related disputes . . . at present and in the future . . . arising out of, relating to, or resulting from Employee's employment with the Company'” applied retroactively. Ferriol, 2015 WL 1968848, at *3. In reaching this conclusion, Judge Cooke noted that the arbitration agreement did not have an effective date, and did “not specify that the parties' employment relations are governed by the terms of an arbitration agreement that commences on a certain date and only applies to a certain time period.” Id. at *4; see also Muniz v. Sharp Deal Auto Repair, Inc., No. 14-20460, 2014 WL 12609466, at *2-3 (S.D. Fla. July 7, 2014) (Williams, J.) (applying arbitration agreement retroactively where the language of the agreement broadly applied to any dispute arising out of the employee's employment, the agreement did not contain any temporal limitation, and specifically included claims made pursuant to a federal statute within its scope); Mayfield v. Comcast Cable Commc'ns Mgmt., LLC, 2015 WL 10173611, at *2 (N.D.Ga. June 19, 2015) (holding that where an arbitration provision is not limited to disputes arising out of that agreement, the time at which a claim arises is not a material inquiry and the arbitration agreement could be applied retroactively); Here, although the arbitration provision references disputes arising under the agreement, it also broadly references “services or work performed by Contractor.” In addition, it specifically states that disputes subject to arbitration include those premised “on any alleged employment relationships . . . whether such claims arise under any contract, agreement, statute . . . .” (emphasis added). The Agreement does not have an effective date, nor does it contain any temporal limitations. Therefore, in light of the precedent cited above, the Court finds that the arbitration provision in the Agreement applies retroactively.

         B. Validity of the Agreement

         The Plaintiff attempts to challenge the validity of both the arbitration provision and the Agreement as a whole through several arguments. However, the Agreement provides that arbitration will be subject to the American Arbitration Association's Commercial Arbitration Rules. (Mot. Ex. A. at 7.) The “Commercial Arbitration Rules provide that the arbitrator shall have the power to: “(1) ‘rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement or the arbitrability of any claim or counterclaim'; and (2) ‘determine the existence or validity of a contract of which an arbitration clause forms a part . . . .'” Bey v. XPO Logistics, Inc., No. 6:1-v-2195-ORL-37KRS, 2017 WL 3923030, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Sept. 7, 2017) (citing Commercial Arbitration Rules and Mediation Procedure, AM. ARB. ASS'N Rule 7(a), (b) (Oct. 13, 2013),; see also Lee v. Fly Low, Inc., No. 15-20572, 2015 WL 12791478, at *3 (S.D. Fla. May 6, 2015) (Scola, J.) (citing ...

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