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Song v. Charter Communications, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 28, 2017

MICHAEL SONG, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, INC.; CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS HOLDING COMPANY, LLC; TIME WARNER INC.; TIME WARNER CABLE INFORMATION SERVICES CALIFORNIA, LLC, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY PROCEEDINGS

          JEFFREY T. MILLER United States District Judge.

         Defendants Charter Communications, Inc., Charter Communications Holding Company, LLC, Time Warner Cable Inc., and Time Warner Cable Information Services (California), LLC (collectively, “Defendants” or “Charter”) move the court, pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., to compel arbitration and stay proceedings in this matter. (Doc. No. 6.) Plaintiff opposes the motion. The court finds the matter appropriate for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(d)(1) and, for the following reasons, grants Defendants' motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendants operate one of the nation's largest cable companies. (Doc. No. 1-3 at 7, ¶ 11.) Plaintiff has subscribed to Defendants' television, internet, and voice services for approximately two years. (Id. at 30, ¶ 74.) When Plaintiff switched to Defendants' services, he entered into a subscriber agreement (“the Agreement”).

         The first page of the Agreement states, in capitalized text: “THIS AGREEMENT CONTAINS A BINDING ‘ARBITRATION CLAUSE, ' WHICH SAYS THAT YOU AND [DEFENDANTS] AGREE TO RESOLVE CERTAIN DISPUTES THROUGH ARBITRATION . . . YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO OPT OUT OF THESE PORTIONS OF THE AGREEMENT.” (Id. at 42.)

         In section 15, entitled “Unless you Opt Out, You are Agreeing to Resolve Certain Disputes Through Arbitration, ” the Agreement states, “Only claims for money damages may be submitted to arbitration; claims for injunctive orders or similar relief must be brought in a court (other than claims relating to whether arbitration is appropriate, which will be decided by an arbitrator, not a court). You may not combine a claim that is subject to arbitration under this Agreement with a claim that is not eligible for arbitration under this Agreement.” (Id. at 52 (emphasis in original).)

         Plaintiff did not opt out.

         On November 9, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint in San Diego Superior Court alleging that Defendants unlawfully charge California customers a surcharge of $8.75 per customer per month. The complaint contains five causes of action: (1) breach of contract; (2) for declaratory and injunctive relief; (3) violation of California's unfair competition law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200 et seq.; (4) violation of California's false advertising law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17500 et seq.; and (5) violation of California's Consumers Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civ. Code § 1750 et seq. Plaintiff seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions against the misconduct alleged, declaratory relief, attorneys' fees, costs, and all other further relief the court deems necessary, just, and proper. (Doc. No. 1-3 at 39.)

         Though he did not style his complaint as a class action, Plaintiff asserts that he “brought the lawsuit to put an end to Charter's unlawful actions, not only for his benefit but also for the benefit of millions of California consumers whom Charter continues to target with this illegal and fraudulent scheme.” (Id. at 6, ¶ 7.) Based on that allegation, Defendants removed the action to this court under the Class Action Fairness Act (“CAFA”). (See Doc. No. 1).[1] One week later, on February 24, 2017, Defendants filed the motion now before the court.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         The FAA applies to arbitration provisions found in written agreements that evidence a transaction involving commerce. 9 U.S.C. § 2. An 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. Federal policy favors arbitration, and arbitration agreements may not be placed in a disfavored position relative to other contracts. See Ingle v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 328 F.3d 1165, 1170 (9th Cir. 2003).

         The court must grant a motion to compel arbitration if a valid agreement to arbitrate exists and the dispute at issue falls within the scope of that agreement. See Chiron Corp. v. Ortho Diagnostic Sys., Inc., 207 F.3d 1126, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). “[T]he language of the contract . . . defines the scope of disputes subject to arbitration, E.E.O.C. v. Waffle House, Inc., 534 U.S. 279, 289 (2002), and “any doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration, ” Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983).

         If the court refers the matter to arbitration, it must then stay the proceedings pending the outcome of ...


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