Class Action Defendant Waived Right To Compel Arbitration After Class Action Certification

by Brooks Pierce
Contact

[author: Mack Sperling]

You probably remember the earlier opinion in Elliott v. KB Home, Inc., in which Judge Jolly certified a class action against the homebuilder KB Home over the improper installation of HardiePlank siding.

Last week, the Business Court ruled in another opinion in the case (2012 NCBC 55) that KB Home had waived its right to seek arbitration of those claims. The waiver resulted from KB Homes' delay in asserting its arbitration rights and the expense incurred by the Plaintiffs in litigating in court.

The standard for waiver was set out by the North Carolina Supreme Court in Servomation Corp. v. Hickory Constr. Co., 316 N.C. 543, 544 (1986). Waiver of the right to compel arbitration occurs when the party with the arbitration right "acts inconsistently with arbitration, and the party opposing arbitration can show it has been prejudiced as a result." Op. 35.

As for prejudice, that results:

if [the plaintiff] [a] is forced to bear the expense of a long trial, [b] it loses helpful evidence, [c] it takes steps in litigation to its detriment or expends significant amounts of money on the litigation, or [d] its opponent makes use of judicial discovery procedures not available in arbitration.

Op. 35 (quoting Servomation Corp., supra, at 544).

The Plaintiffs in the KB Homes case had incurred fees and expenses of approximately $100,000 in litigating their claim by participating in four hearings and taking twenty depositions. Judge Jolly said that:

KB Home's delayed attempt to enforce the arbitration provisions only after Plaintiffs have expended material amounts of time and resources in pursuing their Claims would be prejudicial to Plaintiffs. Such time and resources were expended after KB Home's right to arbitrate accrued and could have been avoided through an earlier demand for arbitration. KB Home could have demanded arbitration as early as 2008, well before the named Plaintiffs actively litigated the Claims. Permitting KB Home to enforce its arbitration rights now would be inconsistent with the principles of waiver outlined in Servomation.

Op. 39.

The interesting issue from a class action perspective was whether the waiver of the right to arbitration ran to the unnamed class members. KB Homes said that it couldn't have asserted its arbitration rights against the unnamed class members until the class was certified and that it hadn't delayed in moving to compel arbitration as to them.

Judge Jolly rejected that argument, saying that it reeked of "gamesmanship." Op. 41 & n.37. He ruled that  ruling otherwise would give the Defendant a "second bite at the apple" chance to relitigate the class certification decision with the unnamed plaintiffs. He relied on an unpublished decision on the point, Kingsbury v. U.S. Greenfiber, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 94854 (C.D. Cal. 2012). In Kingsbury, the court stated:

[T]o accept [defendant's arguments and compel arbitration] would be to condone gamesmanship in the class certification process. A defendant could wait in the weeds and delay asserting its arbitration rights. It could file motions to dismiss, litigate the named plaintiff's legal theories, and oppose class certification motions. If and when a class is finally certified, the defendant could simply assert its arbitration rights and defeat certification of the previously-certified class. In the interests of the fair and efficient administration of justice, the Court cannot accept [defendant's] position.

The Business Court adopted the Kingsbury holding "for the same considerations of fairness and the efficient administration of justice." Op. 41 & n.37.

This isn't the first time that the Business Court has considered a waiver of arbitration issue. Judge Tennille did so ten years ago, in Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. v. Gulf Insurance Co., 2001 NCBC 3 (N.C. Super. Ct. Jan. 31, 2001) and found that a party had not waived its right to arbitration by pursuing discovery in the court proceeding.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Brooks Pierce | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Brooks Pierce
Contact
more
less

Brooks Pierce on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.