Kowal Law Group Logo
u.s.a. supreme court building

Arbitration Not Waived by 13 Months of Litigation? Supreme Court to Weigh In

Tim Kowal     September 7, 2022

The California Supreme Court will review a surprising appellate court holding from earlier this year (writeup here; podcast here) that held that a defendant did not waive the right to arbitrate, even though the defendant had answered the complaint, served multiple sets of discovery, took the employee-plaintiff’s deposition, and otherwise happily litigated for 13 months before finally moving to compel arbitration.

The majority in Quach v. Calif. Commerce Club, Inc. (D2d1 Apr. 14, 2022 no. B310458) 78 Cal.App.5th 470 found that these facts, as a matter of law, do not waive arbitration. The court noted that the California Supreme Court in Saint Agnes Medical Center v. PacifiCare of California (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1187, 1203, had held that mere participation in litigation, and merely driving up court costs and expenses, are not enough to establish waiver of the right to arbitrate.

The dissent would have found a waiver. The dissent would have relied on the trial court’s implied finding that the employer delayed for 13 months precisely “to intimidate a vulnerable at-will employee who lacks the economic resources to cope with such delay.” “Quach's appellate brief hits the nail on the head: “[By now], all benefits of a speedy resolution [Quach] could have obtained through arbitration [have] been lost.””

David Ettinger notes that the opinion was filed less than two weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court held prejudice to the other side is not essential to finding an arbitration waiver in federal courts. (Morgan v. Sundance, Inc. (2022) 142 S.Ct. 1708.)

Blog Note:

The Quach opinion was originally unpublished. After I filed an amicus curiae request for publication, the Court of Appeal granted rehearing on its own motion, and re-issued a modified and partially published opinion. The Court published its holding that the defendant seeking arbitration here had not waived arbitration by litigating for 13 months. The result is the same, but the Court further stressed that "Quach admitted he incurred no costs in litigation that he would not otherwise have expended had the case gone to arbitration earlier." The Court also deleted a reference to the rule that the moving party prejudices the nonmoving party "by depriving that party of the advantages of arbitration." This was one of the challenges in the dissent, to which the majority also now includes a direct response.

The appellate holding now stands for a narrower rule that litigation costs are not prejudice for purposes of establishing a waiver of the right to arbitrate. But the holding now implicitly acknowledges that the delay does deprive the nonmoving party of the intended benefits of arbitration. This represents an anomaly in the Supreme Court's St. Agnes doctrine. We will see if the Supreme Court addresses this in its review.

Tim Kowal is an appellate specialist certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Tim helps trial attorneys and clients win their cases and avoid error on appeal. He co-hosts the Cal. Appellate Law Podcast at CALpodcast.com, and publishes summaries of cases and appellate tips for trial attorneys. Contact Tim at [email protected] or (949) 676-9989.
Get “Not To Be Published,” a weekly digest of these articles, delivered directly to your inbox!
Subscribe

"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."

— Plato (427-347 B.C.)

Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your fellow men justly.

Leviticus

"So far as the beginnings of law had theories, the first theory of liability was in terms of a duty to buy off the vengeance of him to whom an injury had been done whether by oneself or by something in one's power. The idea is put strikingly in the Anglo-Saxon legal proverb, 'Buy spear from side or bear it,' that is, buy off the feud or fight it out."

— Roscoe Pound, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law

"Upon putting laws into writing, they became even harder to change than before, and a hundred legal fictions rose to reconcile them with reality."

— Will Durant

"At common law, barratry was 'the offense of frequently exciting and stirring up suits and quarrels' (4 Blackstone, Commentaries 134) and was punished as a misdemeanor."

Rubin v. Green (1993) 4 Cal.4th 1187

"Counsel on the firing line in an actual trial must be prepared for surprises, including requests for amendments of pleading. They cannot ask that a judgment afterwards obtained be set aside merely because their equilibrium was slightly disturbed by an unexpected motion."

Posz v. Burchell (1962) 209 Cal.App.2d 324, 334

"God made the angels to show Him splendor, … Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind."

— Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons

"Moot points have to be settled somehow, once they get thrust upon us. If an assertion cannot be proved, then it must be settled some other way, and nearly all of these ways are unfair to somebody."

—T.H. White, The Once and Future King

"It may be that the court is thought to be excessively legalistic. I should be sorry to think that it is anything else."

— Hon. Sir Owen Dixon, Chief Justice of Australia

"A judge is a law student who grades his own papers."

— H.L. Mencken

“It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?”

— James Madison, Federalist 62

Copyright © 2024 Kowal Law Group
menuchevron-down
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram