United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO
COMPEL ARBITRATION (ECF NO. 33)
LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is defendant Rent-A-Center, Inc.'s
(“Defendant”) renewed Motion to Compel
Arbitration (“Motion to Compel Arbitration”) of
employment discrimination and related state law claims
brought against it by plaintiff Lorenzo Smith
(“Plaintiff”). ECF No. 33-1. Plaintiff opposes
the motion. ECF No. 34. The Court finds it appropriate to
rule on Defendant's motion without oral argument.
See Local Rule 230(g). For the following reasons,
the Court GRANTS the motion.
October 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against Defendant,
his former employer, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. §
1981, as well as California's Fair Employment and Housing
Act, Labor Code, and public policy. ECF No. 1. In response to
Plaintiff's suit, and after a default judgment was set
aside, Defendant filed its Motion to Compel Arbitration on
January 30, 2019 (“first motion”). ECF Nos. 14,
17. Plaintiff filed an Opposition to Defendant's Motion
on February 13, 2019, arguing, among other things, that his
alleged electronic signatures were not authenticated
sufficiently by Defendant under California law. ECF No. 19 at
2. The Court ruled on March 21, 2019, denying Defendant's
motion based on the Court's finding that Defendant had
failed to authenticate Plaintiff's signatures on the
purported agreements to arbitrate. The Court did not reach
the enforceability of the agreements themselves.
April 26, 2019, Defendant filed a second Motion to Compel
Arbitration (“second motion”), which includes
substantial documentation not included with its first motion.
ECF Nos. 33-1 through 33-4. Plaintiff's Opposition, filed
on May 7, 2019, argues jurisdictional and procedural issues,
and has seemingly abandoned contestation of the signatures
themselves. ECF No. 34. Defendant's reply was filed on
May 21, 2019. ECF No. 37.
Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA, ” “the
Act”) was enacted “in response to widespread
judicial hostility to arbitration agreements.”
AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333,
339 (2011). Under the Act, “[a] written provision in
… a contract evidencing a transaction involving
commerce to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter
arising out of such contract … shall be valid,
irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist
at law or in equity for the revocation of any
contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. The FAA reflects “a
liberal federal policy favoring arbitration.” Moses
H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460
U.S. 1, 24 (1983).
provisions of the FAA establish procedures through which
federal courts implement the substantive rule of the Act.
Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63,
68 (2010). Under these provisions, courts may stay an action
brought “upon any issue referable to arbitration under
an agreement in writing for such arbitration, ” or
order arbitration to proceed when a party is “aggrieved
by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of another to
arbitrate.” 9 U.S.C. §§ 3, 4. However,
“a party cannot be required to submit to arbitration
any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit.”
Howsam v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 537 U.S. 79,
83 (2002) (quoting Steelworkers v. Warrior & Gulf
Nav. Co., 363 U.S. 574, 582 (1960)).
“arbitration is a matter of contract.”
Rent-A-Center, West, Inc., 561 U.S. at 67. Courts
are required to enforce arbitration agreements
“according to their terms.” Id. at 68.
Because an agreement to arbitrate is a matter of contract,
courts “generally … apply ordinary state-law
principles that govern the formation of contracts.”
First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S.
938, 944 (1995).
courts are “limited to determining (1) whether a valid
agreement to arbitrate exists, and, if it does, (2) whether a
valid agreement encompasses the dispute at issue.”
Chiron Corp. v. Ortho Diagnostic Systems, Inc., 207
F.3d 1126, 1130 (9th Cir. 2000). “If there is a genuine
dispute of material fact as to any of these queries, a
district court should apply a ‘standard similar to the
summary judgment standard of [Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56]'.” Lopez v. Terra's Kitchen, LLC,
331 F.Supp.3d 1092, 1097 (S.D. Cal. 2018) (quoting Concat
LP v. Unilever, PLC, 350 F.Supp.2d 796, 804 (N.D. Cal.
2004)). “The district court, when considering a motion
to compel arbitration which is opposed on the ground that no
agreement to arbitrate had been made between the parties,
should give to the opposing party the benefit of all
reasonable doubts and inferences that may arise.”
Three Valleys Mun. Water Dist. V. E.F. Hutton & Co.,
Inc., 925 F.2d 1136, 1141 (9th Cir. 1991) (quoting
Par-Knit Mills, Inc. v. Stockbridge Fabrics Co., 636
F.2d 51 (3d Cir. 1980)).
seeks to compel arbitration at this time, based on the
expanded record supplied to authenticate the validity of
Plaintiff's electronic signatures on three documents,
comprising two agreements to arbitrate. See
generally ECF No. 33-1. Defendant asserts that any
evidentiary deficiency in their previous motion is now cured.
ECF No. 33-1 at 5. Plaintiff opposes Defendant's second
motion on three grounds, contending that: 1) this Court lacks
jurisdiction, as Defendant took an interlocutory appeal from
the Court's previous decision; 2) Defendant's motion
fails to comply with Local Rule 230(k) and Ninth Circuit
precedent regarding motions for reconsideration; and 3) the
affidavit of Defendant's Human Resource Director relies
on hearsay and lacks foundation. See generally ECF
No. 34. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS
Defendant's second motion to compel arbitration, finding
Plaintiff's opposition to be without merit and that the
parties entered into two enforceable arbitration agreements.
contends that this Court does not have jurisdiction to review
the instant motion because Defendant took an interlocutory
appeal from the Court's decision in the first motion,
which Plaintiff purports divested this Court of jurisdiction
over Defendant's second motion. ECF No. 34 at 1-3.
Defendant counters that this motion seeks a ruling on the
ultimate question not reached by the Court in the previous
motion-whether a binding agreement exists between parties
that compels arbitration in this matter; whereas, the appeal
concerns the Court's finding that Defendant's
evidence authenticating an electronic signature in the
previous motion was insufficient. ECF No. 37 at 2-4.
Defendant asserts ...