Eighth Circuit Affirms Order Compelling Arbitration, Rejecting Contract Defenses Of Unconscionability And Lack Of Consideration

Carlton Fields

The Eighth Circuit affirmed an order compelling arbitration in a case filed by a volunteer concession worker against an operator of concessions at a sports stadium in St. Louis. The concession worker had volunteered to work at the stadium to raise funds for Washington University. The worker sued in state court claiming that the amount of the donation made by the concession operator violated the federal and state minimum wage, and that the operator committed fraud. The operator moved to compel arbitration based on a release the volunteer signed that included an agreement to submit any dispute arising from the volunteer activities to arbitration. The trial court compelled arbitration and the volunteer appealed to the Eighth Circuit, arguing that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and lacked consideration. The Eighth Circuit rejected both arguments. The agreement was not unconscionable because it was “easy to understand, with no evidence that it [was] non-negotiable,” and the agreement did not contain onerous provisions. And the agreement was supported by consideration, namely, the volunteer’s release of his right to sue the operator in exchange for the opportunity to volunteer at the sports stadium and procure a donation to Washington University. The Eighth Circuit also found that the arbitration agreement, which encompassed “any dispute arising from the [volunteer] Activity,” is broad and encompassed the volunteer’s claim that he was defrauded from the alleged insufficient wage. The claim depended on whether the plaintiff was “a volunteer or an employee, and the underlying factual allegations touch matters covered by the arbitration provision.” Leonard v. Delaware North Companies Sport Service, Inc.a>, Case No. 16-3246 (8th Circuit June 27, 2017).


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