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Carmona v. Lincoln Millennium Car Wash Inc.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Eighth Division

April 21, 2014

ESTEBAN H. CARMONA et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents,
v.
LINCOLN MILLENNIUM CAR WASH, INC., et al., Defendants and Appellants.

APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BC484951 Yvette M. Palazuelos, Judge.

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COUNSEL

Blank Rome, Howard M. Knee and Kathy PourSanae for Defendants and Appellants.

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Victor Viramontes and Jorge M. Castillo for Plaintiffs and Respondents.

OPINION

FLIER, J

Defendant car wash companies Lincoln Millennium Car Wash, Inc. (doing business as Millennium Car Wash), and Silver Wash, Inc. (doing business as Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing), appeal from the trial court’s order denying their petition to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs Esteban H. Carmona, Marcial H. Carmona, Pedro Cruz, and Yoel Isail Matute Casco are or were employed by the car wash companies and filed a putative class action against them for wage and hour violations. The trial court held the arbitration agreement at issue was unconscionable and refused to enforce it. We find no error and affirm.

facts and PROCEDURE

1. The Agreement

Each plaintiff signed an employment agreement containing an arbitration clause. The agreements contain between four and six pages, depending on the

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plaintiff. The pertinent portions of each plaintiff’s agreement are identical. The agreements contain the following arbitration clause, which was initialed by the plaintiffs:

Settlement by Arbitration

Any dispute under or out of or regarding any aspect of employee’s employment, including its information, or any act which would violate any provision in this employment contract, shall be resolved exclusively through final and binding arbitration by an experienced licensed [sic] to practice law in California and selected in accordance with the expedited Employment Dispute rules of the American Arbitration Association in effect at the time of such dispute, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. Judgment will be on any award by arbitrator’s by [sic] in any court having jurisdiction.”[1]

Directly under the arbitration clause, the agreements also contain the following confidentiality clause:

Confidential Information

“I acknowledge that I have been informed that it is the policy of the Employee to maintain as secret and confidential all information relating to [the car wash] and my employment.

“I agree and understand that any problems or concerns with anything related to my at will employment with [sic] be discussed with management and ownership so it can be resolved before any information is divulged to any persons, firms, corporations, media agency, governmental entities or agencies, other entities [sic].”

In addition to this stand-alone confidentiality clause, the agreements contain a subagreement entitled “Confidentiality Agreement, ” which spans approximately a page and a half (the confidentiality subagreement). This subagreement contains yet another heading entitled “Confidential Information.” This section states, among other things:

“Confidential Information. Employee acknowledges that he/she has learned and will learn Confidential Information, ...


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