This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 08/12/2022 at 00:14:32 (UTC).

BRENDA ARCINIEGA VS DAMCO DISTRIBUTION SERVICES, INC., ET AL.

Case Summary

On 02/01/2022 BRENDA ARCINIEGA filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against DAMCO DISTRIBUTION SERVICES, INC . This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is LAURA A. SEIGLE. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******3969

  • Filing Date:

    02/01/2022

  • Case Status:

    Pending - Other Pending

  • Case Type:

    Labor - Wrongful Termination

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

LAURA A. SEIGLE

 

Party Details

Plaintiff

ARCINIEGA BRENDA

Defendants

DAMCO DISTRIBUTION SERVICES INC.

LAST NAME UNKNOWN JONATHAN

MAERSK INC.

SIMPLIFIED LABOR STAFFING SOLUTIONS INC.

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorneys

CUMMINGS SCOTT OHARA

FRANCK LEE KENNETH

Defendant Attorneys

SAKAUE KERRI H.

HIX CLAYTON J

 

Court Documents

Notice - NOTICE OF CASE REASSIGNMENT

7/11/2022: Notice - NOTICE OF CASE REASSIGNMENT

Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice

7/6/2022: Notice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice

Reply - REPLY IN FURTHER SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION OF PLAINTIFFS CLAIMS AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING RULING ON MOTION AND COMPLETION OF ARBITRATION

6/3/2022: Reply - REPLY IN FURTHER SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION OF PLAINTIFFS CLAIMS AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING RULING ON MOTION AND COMPLETION OF ARBITRATION

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION; HEARING ON MOTION TO...)

6/10/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION; HEARING ON MOTION TO...)

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE: CONTINUANCE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE)

5/24/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE: CONTINUANCE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE)

Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE: CONTINUANCE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE) OF 05/24/2022

5/24/2022: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE: CONTINUANCE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE) OF 05/24/2022

Case Management Statement

5/25/2022: Case Management Statement

Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT DAMCO DISTRIBUTION SERVICES INC.'S AND MAERSK INC.'S MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

5/27/2022: Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANT DAMCO DISTRIBUTION SERVICES INC.'S AND MAERSK INC.'S MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION

Motion to Compel Arbitration

5/16/2022: Motion to Compel Arbitration

Declaration - DECLARATION OF PETE ROBERTS ISO DEFENDANTS DDSI AND MAERSK MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING RULING ON MOTION AND COMPLETION OF ARBITRATION

5/16/2022: Declaration - DECLARATION OF PETE ROBERTS ISO DEFENDANTS DDSI AND MAERSK MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING RULING ON MOTION AND COMPLETION OF ARBITRATION

Case Management Statement

5/17/2022: Case Management Statement

Case Management Statement

5/9/2022: Case Management Statement

Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

5/9/2022: Notice of Posting of Jury Fees

Objection - OBJECTION ISO REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

4/20/2022: Objection - OBJECTION ISO REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

Declaration - DECLARATION ISO REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

4/20/2022: Declaration - DECLARATION ISO REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

Reply - REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

4/20/2022: Reply - REPLY TO OPPOSITION TO PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

Notice of Hearing on Petition - NOTICE OF HEARING ON PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

4/22/2022: Notice of Hearing on Petition - NOTICE OF HEARING ON PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

Notice of Hearing on Petition - NOTICE OF HEARING ON PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND MEMO OF P'S & A'S

4/5/2022: Notice of Hearing on Petition - NOTICE OF HEARING ON PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND MEMO OF P'S & A'S

22 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 12/09/2022
  • Hearing12/09/2022 at 08:30 AM in Department 48 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Status Conference

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  • 07/11/2022
  • DocketNotice (of Case Reassignment); Filed by Brenda Arciniega (Plaintiff)

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  • 07/06/2022
  • DocketNotice of Case Reassignment and Order for Plaintiff to Give Notice; Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/10/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 48, Laura A. Seigle, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration - Held - Motion Granted

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  • 06/10/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 48; Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration - Held - Motion Granted

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  • 06/10/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 48; Case Management Conference - Not Held - Taken Off Calendar by Court

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  • 06/10/2022
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration; Hearing on Motion to...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/03/2022
  • DocketReply (in Further Support of Motion to Compel Arbitration of Plaintiffs Claims and to Stay Proceedings Pending Ruling on Motion and Completion of Arbitration); Filed by Damco Distribution Services, Inc. (Defendant); Maersk, Inc. (Defendant)

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  • 06/01/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 48; Case Management Conference - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by Court

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  • 05/27/2022
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 48; Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration - Not Held - Rescheduled by Party

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22 More Docket Entries
  • 03/11/2022
  • DocketAnswer; Filed by Damco Distribution Services, Inc. (Defendant)

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  • 02/17/2022
  • DocketNotice (of Case Management Conference); Filed by Brenda Arciniega (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/04/2022
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/01/2022
  • DocketFirst Amended General Order re: Mandatory Electronic Filing; Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/01/2022
  • DocketVoluntary Efficient Litigation Stipulation Packet; Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/01/2022
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by Brenda Arciniega (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/01/2022
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Brenda Arciniega (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/01/2022
  • DocketAlternate Dispute Resolution Packet; Filed by Clerk

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  • 02/01/2022
  • DocketSummons (on Complaint); Filed by Brenda Arciniega (Plaintiff)

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  • 02/01/2022
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil Case; Filed by Clerk

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: *******3969 Hearing Date: June 10, 2022 Dept: 48

[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE: MOTIONS TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY ACTION

On February 1, 2022, Plaintiff Brenda Arciniega filed this action against Defendants Damco Distribution Services Inc. (“Damco”), Maersk Inc. (“Maersk”), Simplified Labor Staffing Solutions Inc. (“Simplified”), and Jonathan (last name unknown). The complaint alleges (1) sex/gender discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”); (2) pregnancy discrimination, interference with leave, and retaliation in violation of FEHA; (3) disability discrimination in violation of FEHA; (4) failure to accommodate and engage in a good faith interactive process in violation of FEHA; (5) hostile work environment in violation of FEHA; (6) retaliation; (7) failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; (8) retaliation and interference/violation of kin care; (9) interference/violation of paid sick leave and retaliation; (10) failure to provide all breaks in violation of the Labor Code; (11) wrongful termination in violation of public policy; (12) negligent hiring and retention; (13) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (14) retaliation under the Labor Code; and (15) unfair business practices.

On March 14, 2022, Simplified filed a petition to compel arbitration and stay the action pending the completion of arbitration, and on April 5, 2022, it filed its memorandum of points and authorities. On May 16, 2022, Damco and Maersk filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay the action pending the completion of arbitration.

In her opposition to Damco and Maersk’s motion, Plaintiff “incorporates by reference all arguments, exhibits, declarations, made in support of Plaintiff’s Opposition to Defendant Simplified Labor Staffing Solutions, Inc. (hereinafter ‘Simplified’) Motion to Compel Arbitration.” Plaintiff’s opposition to Damco and Maersk’s motion is 10 pages long, and her opposition to Simplified’s motion is 15 pages long. The Simplified opposition raises different arguments than those in the Damco/Maersk opposition. Thus, Plaintiff’s incorporation of the Simplified opposition results in a 25-page opposition to Damco and Maersk’s motion. The Damco/Maersk opposition also crammed up to 32 lines on each page. In addition, because Plaintiff filed the Damco/Maersk opposition after Simplified filed its reply, Plaintiff was able to, and did, respond to evidence Simplified filed with its reply.

When seeking to compel arbitration of a plaintiff’s claims, the defendant must allege the existence of an agreement to arbitrate. (Condee v. Longwood Management Corp. (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 215, 219.) The burden then shifts to the plaintiff to prove the falsity of the agreement. (Ibid.) After the Court determines that an agreement to arbitrate exists, it then considers objections to its enforceability. (Ibid.)

The Court must grant a petition to compel arbitration unless the defendant has waived the right to compel arbitration or if there are grounds to revoke the arbitration agreement. (Ibid.; Code Civ. Proc., 1281.2.) Under California law and the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), an arbitration agreement may be invalid based upon grounds applicable to any contract, including unconscionability, fraud, duress, and public policy. (Sanchez v. Western Pizza Enterprises, Inc. (2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 154, 165-166.)

SIMPLIFIED’S MOTION

Simplified’s evidentiary objections are overruled. Plaintiff’s statements go to Plaintiff’s state of mind and understanding about what she was signing.

A. Applicability of FAA and CAA

Plaintiff argues the FAA does not apply because her employment did not have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. (Opposition at p. 2.) Simplified seeks to compel arbitration under both the FAA and the California Arbitration Act (“CAA”). (Motion at p. 2.) “California law, like federal law, favors enforcement of valid arbitration agreements,” and “under California law, as under federal law, an arbitration agreement may only be invalidated for the same reasons as other contracts.” (Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare Services, Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 83, 97-98 (Armendariz).) Plaintiff has not shown that the motion should be denied on this ground.

Plaintiff also argues California does not apply because it was not invoked and there is no choice of law provision. (Opposition at p. 4.) The Mutual Arbitration Policy states it will be governed by the FAA, but “[i]f for any reason the FAA is deemed inapplicable, only then will the MAP be governed by the applicable state arbitration statutes.” (Motion, Ex. 2.) This sufficiently provides for California law to apply to arbitration in California if the FAA does not apply.

B. Existence of Arbitration Agreement

Simplified contends that Plaintiff electronically signed an arbitration agreement in connection with her employment. Simplified provides a copy of the Employee Agreement to Arbitrate and the Mutual Arbitration Policy. (Motion, Exs. 1-2.) The Mutual Arbitration Policy “covers all disputes relating to or arising out of or in connection with employment at the Company or the termination of that employment,” including claims for wrongful termination of employment, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, tort, wages or overtime, and claims under FEHA and the Labor Code. (Motion, Ex. 2 at p. 1.) It also states, “Your decision to accept employment or to continue employment with the Company constitutes your agreement to be bound by the MAP.” (Ibid.) The Employee Agreement to Arbitrate has an electronic signature of Plaintiff’s name. (Motion, Ex. 2.)

Plaintiff argues she did not see or sign the arbitration agreement. A female employee at Simplified greeted Plaintiff, handed her a tablet, and told her to fill in the information and sign the documents. (Arciniega Decl. 14-15.) According to Plaintiff, the employee created the username and password and gave them to Plaintiff. (Id. at 16.) Her personal email address was not used and she did not receive confirmation at her personal email. (Id. at 17.) Plaintiff signed documents referring to policies on lunches and rest breaks, and she inputted general information about herself, including hours of availability. (Id. at 19, 33.) The arbitration agreement did not show up on the tablet. (Id. at 18.) When Plaintiff finished entering her information, she returned the tablet to the employee. (Id. at 21.)

When a plaintiff does not recall signing or agreeing to an electronic agreement, the defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that an electronic signature or acceptance is authentic, i.e., that it was the act of the plaintiff. (Ruiz v. Moss Bros. Auto Group, Inc. (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 836, 846.) “[A] party may establish that the electronic signature was ‘the act of the person’ by presenting evidence that a unique login and password known only to that person was required to affix the electronic signature, along with evidence detailing the procedures the person had to follow to electronically sign the document and the accompanying security precautions.” (Bannister v. Marinidence Opco, LLC (2021) 64 Cal.App.5th 541, 545.)

Simplified provides declarations from Braulio Escobedo, Simplified’s Payroll Director, who is familiar with its business operations and Plaintiff’s personnel file. (Escobedo Decl. at p. 1.) Simplified uses an online, electronic system called Temp Works to onboard new employees. (Id. at 4.) Employees can log on to Temp Works from a device like a laptop or iPad or from the kiosks, which are actually electronic tablets, at Simplified’s locations. (Id. at 6; Escobedo Suppl. Decl. 4.) The first step requires inputting basic information and creating a unique username and password. (Escobedo Suppl. Decl. 4.) The Mutual Arbitration Policy and Employee Agreement to Arbitrate are shown one page at a time, and the employee must click “Save and Continue” on each page to advance. (Id. at 11.) The employee must electronically sign the Employment Agreement to Arbitrate by typing their name that matches the name provided on the initial registration page. (Ibid.) While the employee fills out the application, the program simultaneously records the completion in an HR Center Data Log. (Id. at 7.) The HR Center Data Log shows the date and time, in Central Daylight Time, that the data was inputted. (Ibid.) The application can be submitted for processing only after the employee fills out and signs all forms. (Id. at 8-10.)

Although Simplified’s staff may have had access to Plaintiff’s login information (see Arciniega Decl. 16), Simplified shows by a preponderance of evidence that Plaintiff was the one who signed the arbitration agreement. Plaintiff inputted “basic and general information” about herself, including her hours of availability. (Arciniega Decl. 19.) Her contact information and emergency contact information were entered on October 2, 2020 from 2:41 p.m. to 2:44 p.m. (Escobedo Suppl. Decl., Ex. 5 at pp. 1-2.) She entered her education and work histories between 2:47 p.m. and 2:54 p.m. (Id. at pp. 3-4.) Plaintiff entered her availability at 2:56 p.m. (Id. at p. 5.) The Mutual Arbitration Policy was signed at 3:05 p.m. (Id. at p. 12.) Plaintiff admits signing documents referring to policies on lunches and rest breaks, which occurred at 3:11 p.m. (Arciniega Decl. 19; Escobedo Suppl. Decl. 17 & Ex. 5.) Thus, the preponderance of the evidence shows that Plaintiff signed the Mutual Arbitration Policy in between the other documents that she admits she signed.

Plaintiff’s opposition to Damco and Maersk’s motion also argues, in response to Simplied’s repy evidence, that “it is mathematically and physically impossible to read 4 pages of a document that contains tiny, convoluted language, to request a Spanish translation (as is stated in the Employee’s Agreement to Arbitrate) (Exhibit 3) and fill out all of the information and then move on to the next section on page 5 of the Log, all within one minute.” (Damco/Maersk Opposition at p. 4.) “‘[I]t is generally unreasonable . . . to neglect to read a written agreement before signing it.’” (Sanchez v. Valencia Holding Co., LLC (2015) 61 Cal.4th 899, 914-915; Pinnacle Museum Tower Assn. v. Pinnacle Market Development (US), LLC (2012) 55 Cal.4th 223, 236 [“An arbitration clause within a contract may be binding on a party even if the party never actually read the clause”].) The evidence described above shows Plaintiff clicked through each page of the Mutual Arbitration Policy and clicked “Save and Continue” to advance to the next page. (Escobedo Suppl. Decl. 11.) That Plaintiff did not read the pages before she advanced to the next page is not a basis for deny arbitration. As for Plaintiff’s failure to request a Spanish translation, Plaintiff did not state in her declaration that she cannot read English.

In sum, Simplified has satisfied its burden of showing the existence of an agreement to arbitrate.

C. Armendariz Factors

Arbitration agreements for FEHA claims must (1) provide for neutral arbitrators, (2) provide for more than minimal discovery, (3) require a written award, (4) provide for all of the types of relief that would otherwise be available in court, and (5) not require employees to pay either unreasonable costs or any arbitrators’ fees or expenses as a condition of access to the arbitration forum. (Armendariz, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 102.) These requirements may apply to non-FEHA employment claims. (See Pinela v. Neiman Marcus Group, Inc. (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 227, 254 [applying the Armendariz factors in the context of claims under the Labor Code].)

The arbitration agreement provides for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”), unless otherwise agreed in writing. (Motion, Ex. 2 at p. 2.) Under the AAA’s Employment Arbitration Rules, which govern the arbitration, there will be a neutral arbitrator. (Ibid.) The AAA rules also include procedures for discovery. (Motion, Ex. 3 at p. 14.) Plaintiff is entitled to recover any remedy she would have been entitled to in court, including attorney fees and costs. (Id. at p. 23.) The arbitrator will issue a written decision. (Motion, Ex. 2 at p. 2.) Simplified and Plaintiff will share the cost of the filing fee and arbitrator’s fees and costs, but Plaintiff’s share of the fees and costs “shall not exceed an amount equal to your local court civil filing fee.” (Motion, Ex. 2 at pp. 2-3.) The arbitration agreement states, “Except as otherwise provided by law,” the parties will be responsible for their own attorney fees.” (Motion, Ex. 2 at p. 3.) Therefore, if the law provides for Defendants being responsible for Plaintiff’s fees, the agreement allows that.

Accordingly, the arbitration agreement satisfies Armendariz.

D. Procedural Unconscionability

For an arbitration agreement to be unenforceable as unconscionable, both procedural and substantive unconscionability must be present. (Armendariz, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 114.) “[T]he more substantively oppressive the contract term, the less evidence of procedural unconscionability is required to come to the conclusion that the term is unenforceable, and vice versa.” (Ibid.) “The relevant factors in assessing the level of procedural unconscionability are oppression and surprise.” (Orcilla v. Big Sur, Inc. (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 982, 997.) “‘The oppression component arises from an inequality of bargaining power of the parties to the contract and an absence of real negotiation or a meaningful choice on the part of the weaker party.’” (Abramson v. Juniper Networks, Inc. (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 638, 656.) “The circumstances relevant to establishing oppression include, but are not limited to (1) the amount of time the party is given to consider the proposed contract; (2) the amount and type of pressure exerted on the party to sign the proposed contract; (3) the length of the proposed contract and the length and complexity of the challenged provision; (4) the education and experience of the party; and (5) whether the party's review of the proposed contract was aided by an attorney.” (Grand Prospect Partners, L.P. v. Ross Dress for Less, Inc. (2015) 232 Cal.App.4th 1332, 1348, fn. omitted.) “The component of surprise arises when the challenged terms are ‘hidden in a prolix printed form drafted by the party seeking to enforce them.’” (Ibid.) “The adhesive nature of the employment contract requires [the court] to be ‘particularly attuned’ to [Plaintiff’s] claim of unconscionability [citation], but [the court] do[es] not subject the contract to the same degree of scrutiny as ‘[c]ontracts of adhesion that involve surprise or other sharp practices’ [citation].” (Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc. (2016) 62 Cal.4th 1237, 1245.)

Plaintiff argues that the arbitration agreement is procedurally unconscionable because it is a contract of adhesion drafted by Simplified with no evidence of Plaintiff’s ability to negotiate. (Opposition at pp. 13-14.) Arbitration agreements that are “take it or leave it” have some degree of procedural unconscionability. (Ajamian v. CantorCO2e, L.P. (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 771, 796.) The Arbitration Agreement has some degree of unconscionability due to its adhesive nature.

Plaintiff also argues the arbitration agreement is unconscionable due to surprise because she never signed it. (Opposition at p. 14.) As discussed above, Simplified has met its burden of showing that it provided and Plaintiff signed the agreement.

E. Substantive Unconscionability

“‘Substantive unconscionability pertains to the fairness of an agreement’s actual terms and to assessments of whether they are overly harsh or one-sided. [Citations.] A contract term is not substantively unconscionable when it merely gives one side a greater benefit; rather, the term must be “so one-sided as to ‘shock the conscience.’”’ [Citation.]’” (Carmona v. Lincoln Millennium Car Wash, Inc. (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 74, 85.)

Plaintiff argues the arbitration agreement contains an unlawful waiver of her right to bring PAGA representative actions and class actions. (Opposition at pp. 10, 14-15.) But Plaintiff does not bring this action as a representative action under PAGA or a class action. Even if she had, the Employee Agreement to Arbitrate states, “If any provision of the MAP is found unenforceable, that provision may be severed without affecting this agreement to arbitrate.” (Motion, Ex. 1.) Pursuant to that provision, the Court severs the waiver of PAGA and class actions.

Plaintiff also argues the arbitration agreement contains a pre-dispute jury waiver that is unconscionable and against public policy. (Opposition at pp. 10, 15.) “When parties agree to submit their disputes to arbitration they select a forum that is alternative to, and independent of, the judicial—a forum in which, as they well know, disputes are not resolved by juries.” (Madden v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals (1976) 17 Cal.3d 699, 714.) Plaintiff’s argument would render all arbitration agreements inherently unconscionable.

Because the Court finds some procedural but no substantive unconscionability, the arbitration agreement should not be invalidated due to unconscionability.

DAMCO AND MAERSK’S MOTION

Damco and Maersk are not signatories to the arbitration agreement between Simplified and Plaintiff. They argue they can compel arbitration of Plaintiff’s claims against them as third-party beneficiaries or through the doctrines of equitable estoppel and agency. Plaintiff argues she did not agree to arbitrate with them. (Damco/Maersk Opposition at p. 5.)

Generally, only a party to an arbitration agreement may enforce the agreement, but the doctrine of equitable estoppel is an exception that allows a non-signatory to enforce an agreement. (Gracia v. Pexco, LLC (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 782, 786.) “Under this exception, ‘a nonsignatory defendant may invoke an arbitration clause to compel a signatory plaintiff to arbitrate its claim when the causes of action against the nonsignatory are “intimately founded in and intertwined with” the underlying contract obligations.’ [Citation.] The doctrine applies where the claims are ‘ “ ‘based on the same facts and are inherently inseparable’ ’ from the arbitrable claims against signatory defendants.’ [Citation.] ” (Ibid.) In Garcia, as in this case, the plaintiff sued both the staffing agency who staffed her and the company where she was staffed, alleging the same causes of action against the staffing agency and the company without distinguishing between the defendants.

Plaintiff asserts all causes of action against Simplified, Damco, and Maersk collectively as her “Employer.” (See Complaint 11.) The allegations against Damco and Maersk are intertwined with Simplified’s conduct and alleged wrongdoing, and they are founded in the employment relationship between Simplified and Plaintiff. (Garcia, supra, 11 Cal.App.5th at pp. 787-788.) Plaintiff does not distinguish among the defendants in any way. (Ibid.) Plaintiff’s allegations against Damco and Maersk are inseparable from her allegations against Simplified.

“The agency exception is another exception to the general rule that only a party to an arbitration agreement may enforce it. [Citation.] The exception applies, and a defendant may enforce the arbitration agreement, ‘when a plaintiff alleges a defendant acted as an agent of a party to an arbitration agreement. . . .’ [Citation.]” (Garcia, supra, 11 Cal.App.5th at p. 788.) When a complaint refers to the defendants as agents of each other and “every cause of action allege[s] identical claims against ‘All Defendants’ without any distinction,” the agency exception applies. (Ibid.) Likewise, by suing [non-signatory defendants] for breach of the Agreement on the ground that they are [the company’s] alter egos . . . [defendants] are ‘entitled to the benefit of the arbitration provisions.’” (Rowe v. Exline (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1276, 1285.)

Plaintiff alleges Damco and Maersk are agents and alter egos of Simplified, and that all are joint employers of Plaintiff. (Complaint 14-15.) Plaintiff alleges identical claims against Damco, Maersk, and Simplified without any distinction. The allegations here are comparable to the allegations in Garcia. As the court in Garcia explained, the reasoning in Barsegian v. Kessler & Kessler (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 446, does not apply to allegations like those here. (Garcia, supra, 11 Cal.App.5th at p. 788.) Therefore, the agency exception applies here.

Damco and Maersk, under equitable estoppel and the agency exception, can compel arbitration.

CONCLUSION

The motions to compel arbitration are GRANTED. This action is STAYED pending the completion of arbitration. A status conference regarding arbitration is set for December 9, 2022 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 48 at Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Five court days before, the parties are to file a joint report regarding the status of arbitration.

Moving party to give notice.

Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the Court at SMCDEPT48@lacourt.org indicating intention to submit. Parties intending to appear are STRONGLY encouraged to appear remotely.



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