Pending - Other Pending
Personal Injury - Other Personal Injury
JOEL L. LOFTON
COLIN P. LEIS
DAVID J. COWAN
MARK E. WINDHAM
AHMC HEALTHCARE INC.
CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE WEST II
SAN GABRIEL VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER
11/9/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION)
11/4/2022: Request for Dismissal
11/2/2022: Reply - REPLY REPLY TO PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION
10/24/2022: Notice of Continuance
10/24/2022: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER) OF 10/24/2022
10/24/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER)
10/21/2022: Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF SUREN AYRAPETYAN ISO PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MTC ARBITRATION AND STAY OF PROCEEDINGS
10/21/2022: Declaration - DECLARATION DECLARATION OF VAHE SHAKHGELDYAN ISO PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MTC ARBITRATION AND STAY OF PROCEEDINGS
10/21/2022: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)
10/21/2022: Objection - OBJECTION EVIDENTIARY OBJECTIONS ISO PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MTC ARBITRATION AND STAY OF PROCEEDINGS)
10/21/2022: Opposition - OPPOSITION PLAINTIFF OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MTC ARBITRATION AND STAY OF PROCEEDINGS
10/19/2022: Notice - NOTICE OF NON-OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING ARBITRATI
10/12/2022: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (COURT ORDER RE: RELATED CASE) OF 10/12/2022
10/12/2022: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR (COURT ORDER RE: RELATED CASE) OF 10/12/2022
10/6/2022: Notice of Related Case
10/6/2022: Motion to Compel Arbitration
10/6/2022: Declaration - DECLARATION OF BARBORA PULMANOVA IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
10/6/2022: Declaration - DECLARATION OF ANDREW GRIM IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
Hearing06/16/2023 at 08:30 AM in Department X at 150 West Commonwealth, Alhambra, CA 91801; Post-Arbitration Status Conference[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketPost-Arbitration Status Conference scheduled for 06/16/2023 at 08:30 AM in Alhambra Courthouse at Department X[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketMinute Order (Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketHearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration scheduled for 11/09/2022 at 08:30 AM in Alhambra Courthouse at Department X updated: Result Date to 11/09/2022; Result Type to Held - Motion Granted[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOn the Court's own motion, Status Conference Case Transferred from Spring Street Department 29 scheduled for 12/14/2022 at 08:30 AM in Alhambra Courthouse at Department X Not Held - Advanced and Vacated on 11/09/2022[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketUpdated -- Reply TO PLAINTIFFS OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING ARBITRATION: Name Extension changed from Reply to plaintiff's opposition to TO PLAINTIFFS OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING ARBITRATION; As To Parties: removed[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOn the Complaint filed by Suren Ayrapetyan on 06/20/2022, entered Request for Dismissal without prejudice filed by Suren Ayrapetyan as to Catholic Healthcare West II and Dignity Health[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketRequest for Dismissal; Filed by: Suren Ayrapetyan (Plaintiff); As to: San Gabriel Valley Medical Center (Defendant); Catholic Healthcare West II (Defendant); Dignity Health (Defendant) et al.[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketReply Reply to plaintiff's opposition; Filed by: San Gabriel Valley Medical Center (Defendant); AHMC Healthcare Inc. (Defendant); Gurveer Chhokar (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketUpdated -- Declaration OF VAHE SHAKHGELDYAN IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING ARBITRATION ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING ARBITRATION: Name Extension changed from Declaration of Vahe Shakhgeldyan ISO Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' MTC Arbitration and Stay of Proceedings to OF VAHE SHAKHGELDYAN IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFF'S OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING ARBITRATION ARBITRATION AND TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING ARBITRATION; As To Parties: removed[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCase assigned to Hon. Serena R. Murillo in Department 29 Spring Street Courthouse[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketFinal Status Conference scheduled for 12/04/2023 at 10:00 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 29[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketNon-Jury Trial scheduled for 12/18/2023 at 08:30 AM in Spring Street Courthouse at Department 29[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by: Suren Ayrapetyan (Plaintiff); As to: San Gabriel Valley Medical Center (Defendant); Catholic Healthcare West II (Defendant); Dignity Health (Defendant) et al.[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by: Suren Ayrapetyan (Plaintiff); As to: San Gabriel Valley Medical Center (Defendant); Catholic Healthcare West II (Defendant); Dignity Health (Defendant) et al.[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketSummons on Complaint; Issued and Filed by: Suren Ayrapetyan (Plaintiff); As to: San Gabriel Valley Medical Center (Defendant); Catholic Healthcare West II (Defendant); Dignity Health (Defendant) et al.[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketAlternate Dispute Resolution Packet; Filed by: Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketVoluntary Efficient Litigation Stipulation Packet; Filed by: Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketSeventh Amended Standing Order for Procedures in the Personal Injury Hub Courts; Filed by: Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil Personal Injury Case; Filed by: Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
Case Number: *******0093 Hearing Date: November 9, 2022 Dept: X
Judge Joel L. Lofton, Department X
HEARING DATE: November 9, 2022 TRIAL DATE: No date set.
CASE: SUREN AYRAPETYAN, an individual, v. SAN GABRIEL VALLEY MEDICAL CENTER, a business entity form unknown; CATHOLIC HEALTHCARE WEST II, a California nonprofit public entity corporation; DIGNITY HEALTH, a California nonprofit public benefit corporation; AHMC HEALTHCARE INC, a California corporation; GHURVEER CHHOKAR, an individual; HARJIK RANDHAWA, an individual; D’ANNA ALCANTAR, an individual; and DOES 1-100, inclusive.
CASE NO.: *******0093
MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
MOVING PARTY: Defendant San Gabriel Valley Medical Center
RESPONDING PARTY: No response filed.
SERVICE: Filed October 6, 2022
OPPOSITION: Filed October 21, 2022
REPLY: Filed November 2, 2022
SGVMC move for an order compelling Plaintiff to submit the present action to binding arbitration.
This case arises out of Plaintiff Suren Ayrapetyan’s (“Plaintiffs”) claim that he was wrongfully terminated from his employment at San Gabriel Valley Medical Center, Catholic Healthcare West II, Dignity Health, and AHMC Healthcare Inc. (“SGVMC”). Plaintiff alleges he began his employment on or around June 5, 2018. He alleges he was terminated on or about June 18, 2021. Plaintiff alleges he faced discrimination based on his national origin, was falsely accused of patient abandonment, and was denied union representation during meetings.
Plaintiff filed this complaint on June 20, 2022, alleging nine causes of action for (1) employment discrimination based on race in violation of Government Code section 12940, subdivision (a), et seq., (2) wrongful/tortious termination in violation of public policy protecting persons from racial discrimination, (3) employment discrimination based on national/ethnic origin in violation of Government Code section 12940, subdivision (a), et seq., (4) Wrongful/Tortious Termination in violation of public policy protecting persons from discrimination based on national/ethnic origin, (5) racial harassment in violation of Government Code section 12940, subdivision (j), et seq., (6) breach of implied contract of continued employment, (7) breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, (8) intentional infliction of emotional distress, and (9) negligent infliction of emotion distress.
Plaintiff’s objections numbers one through five are overruled.
SGVMC’s motion to compel arbitration is GRANTED.
SGVMC’s request for a stay of the present proceedings pending the arbitration is GRANTED.
“California and federal law both favor enforcement of valid arbitration agreements.” (Aanderud v. Superior Court (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 880, 889.) “A party who files a motion to compel arbitration ‘bears the burden of proving the existence of a valid arbitration agreement by the preponderance of the evidence, and a party opposing the petition bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence any fact necessary to its defense.’’ (Cisnero Alverez v. Altamed Health Services Corporation (2021) 60 Cal.App.5th 572, 580.) “A written agreement to submit to arbitration an existing controversy or a controversy thereafter arising is valid, enforceable and irrevocable, save upon such grounds as exist for the revocation of any contract.” (Code Civ. Proc. section 1281.)
SGVMC seeks an order compelling Plaintiff to submit the present claim to binding arbitration. SGVMC asserts that a written agreement to arbitrate exists between the parties.
On or about June 5, 2018, Plaintiff signed a Mutual Arbitration Agreement, which provides: “I understand that it is my obligation to make use of the Fair Treatment Process (“FTP”) and to submit to final and binding arbitration any and all claims and disputes that arise out of or are related in any way to my employment or the termination of my employment with AHMC. I understand that final and binding arbitration will be the sole and exclusive remedy for any such claim or dispute against AHMC Healthcare Inc. or any of its affiliated hospitals, facilities, companies or entities, and any of their employees, officers, directors, Medical Staff, physicians or agents (“the Company”). (Jaquez Decl. 5, Exhibit 1.)
SGVMC asserts that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) applies to the arbitration provision in the present case. The FAA applies “applies when a contract involves interstate commerce.” (Nixon v. AmeriHome Mortgage Company, LLC (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 934, 945.) “ ‘[T]he phrase “ ‘involving commerce’ ” in the FAA is the functional equivalent of the term “ ‘affecting commerce,’ ” which is a term of art that ordinarily signals the broadest permissible exercise of Congress's commerce clause power.’ ” (Carbajal v. CWPSC, Inc. (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 227, 238.) “ ‘Employment contracts, except for those covering workers’ specifically exempted by the statute, ‘are covered by the FAA.’ ” (Evenskaas v. California Transit, Inc. (2022) 81 Cal.App.5th 285, 292.)
SGVMC submits the declaration of Andrew Grim, its Chief Financial Officer, who provides that SGVMC provides medical services to both California and non-California residents and regularly purchases substantial amounts of goods and servicers from vendors located outside of California. (Grim Decl. 4.) Plaintiff has submitted no evidence in opposition. SGVMC has established that the FAA applies in the present case.
Further, based on the agreement signed by Plaintiff, “any and all claims that arise out of or are related in any way” to Plaintiff’s “employment or the termination of [Plaintiff’s] employment with AHMC” is covered by the arbitration agreement. Plaintiff’s allegations of wrongful termination and unlawful treatment while employed at SGVMC are encompassed within the wording of the arbitration agreement. SGVMC has thus met its burden of establishing a valid arbitration agreement exists that encompasses the claims in the present case.
Plaintiff argues that the terms of the contract are ambiguous and thus unenforceable.
“The proper interpretation of a contract is disputable if the contract is susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation, that is, if the contract is ambiguous. An ambiguity may appear on the face of a contract, or extrinsic evidence may reveal a latent ambiguity.” (Fremont Indemnity Co. v. Freomont General Corp. (2007) 148 Cal.App.4th 97, 114.)
Plaintiff asserts that the three exhibits submitted by SGVMC, when taken together, are ambiguous. Plaintiff asserts that the Fair Treatment Process (“FTP”) detailed in SGVMC’s handbook (Jaquez Decl. 7, Exhibit 3) conflicts, and therefore invalidates, the arbitration agreement. Plaintiff’s primary argument is that the FTP is ambiguous because it has a “Restricted Issues” section where it provides that an employee can skip Step 1 of the FTP for claims for sexual or other illegal harassment. (Id. at p. 105.) However, Step 1 of the FTP process involves submitting the dispute to the employee’s supervisor. (Id at p. 100.) Step 4 of the FTP process requires the employee to submit to final and binding arbitration. (Ibid.) Nothing in Plaintiff’s arguments establishes that the arbitration agreement is ambiguous.
“Civil Code section 1670.5, subdivision (a) states: ‘If the court as a matter of law finds the contract or any clause of the contract to have been unconscionable at the time it was made the court may refuse to enforce the contract, or it may enforce the remainder of the contract without the unconscionable clause, or it may so limit the application of any unconscionable clause as to avoid any unconscionable result.’ This provision applies to arbitration agreements. [citation.]” (Peng v. First Republic Bank (2013) 219 Cal.App.4th 1462, 1469.)
“ ‘[U]nconscionability has both a “procedural” and a “substantive” element,’ the former focusing on ‘oppression’ or ‘surprise’ due to unequal bargaining power, the latter on “overly harsh” or “one-sided” results. [citation.] ‘The prevailing view is that [procedural and substantive unconscionability] must both be present in order for a court to exercise its discretion to refuse to enforce a contract or clause under the doctrine of unconscionability.’ ” (Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychare Services, Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 83, 114.)
“Procedural unconscionability ‘addresses the circumstances of contract negotiation and formation, focusing on oppression or surprise due to unequal bargaining power.’ ” (Carbajal v. CWPSC, Inc., supra, 245 Cal.App.4th at p. 243.) “ ‘It is well settled that adhesion contracts in the employment context, that is, those contracts offered to employees on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, typically contain some aspects of procedural unconscionability.’ ” (Id. at p. 243.)
Plaintiff asserts that the contract is procedurally unconscionable because it was an adhesion contract, and he was not fully informed of the arbitration clauses’ implication. Plaintiff asserts that no one warned him he was signing a binding arbitration clause. Ayrapetyan Decl. 3 and 6.)
“When . . . there is no other indication of oppression or surprise, ‘the degree of procedural unconscionability of an adhesion agreement is low, and the agreement will be enforceable unless the degree of substantive unconscionability is high.’ ” (Serpa v. California Surety Investigations, Inc. (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 695, 704.)
Plaintiff has demonstrated a limited degree of procedural unconscionability because he was unable to negotiate the terms of the arbitration agreement. However, Plaintiff’s assertion that SGVMC employees did not explain that he was signing an arbitration agreement fails to establish that the arbitration agreement presents a high level of procedural unconscionability. The document Plaintiff signed is entitled “Mutual Arbitration Agreement” where Plaintiff acknowledges he was given the employee handbook, reviewed the FTP policy, and agrees to submit to binding arbitration. (Jaquez Decl. 5, Exhibit 1.) Plaintiff has not established oppression or surprise by claiming he did not understand the documents he was signing. (Ayrapetyan Decl. 4.) Plaintiff’s claim that he was not informed of the fact that he was forgoing his right to a jury trial is unavailing. The arbitration agreement provides that Plaintiff understood he was agreeing “to forgo and waive any right . . . to a judicial forum or a jury trial on claims covered by the FTP.” (Jaquez Decl. 5, Exhibit 1.)
The next issue is whether the arbitration clause is substantively unconscionable.
“Substantive unconscionability pertains to the fairness of an agreement's actual terms and to assessments of whether they are overly harsh or one-sided.” (The McCaffrey Group, Inc. v. Superior Court (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1330, 1348.) “A contractual provision is not substantively unconscionable simply because it provides one side a greater benefit.” (Carbajal, supra, 245 Cal.App.4th at p. 248.)
Plaintiff argues that the arbitration clause is substantively unconscionable because it is unilateral. However, the arbitration agreement specifically provides that “both the Company and I” are agreeing to waive the right to use a judicial form. (Jaquez Decl. 5, Exhibit 1.) Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the arbitration agreement is overly harsh or one-sided.
Plaintiff also makes a separate argument that the arbitration agreement is unilateral because it was signed only by Plaintiff. However, this issue is more properly assessed under whether mutual assent exists as to the contract and whether a non-signatory can enforce the arbitration agreement, issues that are discussed below.
Plaintiff has demonstrated a limited degree of procedural unconscionability and failed to establish any level of substantive unconscionability. Therefore, Plaintiff has failed to establish that the arbitration agreement is invalid based on unconscionability.
As previously stated, Plaintiff argues that the arbitration agreement is invalid because he was the only party to sign it. In Serafin v. Balco Properties Ltd. LLC (2015) 235 Cal.App.4th 165, 175, the Court held that an employee’s signature on a “mandatory arbitration policy” was enough to form an agreement to arbitrate. The Court noted that the employee had signed a separate, two-page document detailing the agreement to arbitrate and the arbitration provision was not hidden. (Ibid.) Similarly here, Plaintiff signed a separate, two-page document where he acknowledges the agreement to arbitrate between the parties. “ ‘Accordingly, a party can be compelled to submit a dispute to arbitration only where he has agreed in writing to do so.’ ” (Id. at p. 172.)
Plaintiff has thus failed to establish that the arbitration agreement is unenforceable because he was the only party to sign the agreement.
Equitable Estoppel and Agency Exception
Plaintiff also asserts that the individual defendants did not sign the alleged arbitration agreement and are thus unable to enforce the arbitration agreement. In its reply, SGVMC asserts that the doctrine of equitable estoppel and the agency exception apply to make the arbitration agreement enforceable by the individual defendants.
“ ‘[A] nonsignatory defendant may invoke an arbitration clause to compel a signatory plaintiff to arbitrate its claims when the causes of action against the nonsignatory are “intimately founded in and intertwined” with the underlying contract obligations.’ [Citations.] ‘By relying on contract terms in a claim against a nonsignatory defendant, even if not exclusively, a plaintiff may be equitably estopped from repudiating the arbitration clause contained in that agreement.’ ” (Molecular Analytical Systems v. Ciphergen Biosystems, Inc. (2010) 186 Cal.App.4th 696, 706.)
“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....’ ” (Garcia v. Pexco, LLC (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 788.)
Plaintiff alleges that the individual defendants are employees of SGVMC and acted within the scope of their employment with SGVMC. (Complaint 7.) Plaintiff alleges that the individual defendants acted as the agent of each of the other defendants, including SGVMC. (Id. 11.) Plaintiffs’ allegations are based on his employment at SGVMC and his claims that SGVMC and the individual defendants acted unlawfully towards Plaintiff during his employment.
Here, Plaintiff alleges that the individual defendants were agents of SGVMC, which establishes that the agency exception applies. Further, Plaintiff’s claims are based on his employment at SGVMC and made against employees of SGVMC, supporting a finding that his claims are intertwined with his contractual obligations to arbitrate the present claims even against the individual defendants. Lastly, the arbitration agreement itself provides that Plaintiff understands “that final and binding arbitration will be the sole and exclusive remedy for any such claim or dispute against AHMC Healthcare Inc. or any of its affiliated hospitals, facilities, companies or entities, and any of their employees, officers, directors, Medical Staff, physicians or agents (‘the Company”). (Jaquez Decl. 5, Exhibit 1.)
Thus, the arbitration agreement covers Plaintiff’s claims against the individual defendants.
Whether Plaintiff’s Claims are Covered by the Arbitration Agreement
Plaintiff also argues that the arbitration agreement should not be enforced because his eighth and ninth causes of action for intentional infliction of emotion distress (“IIED”) and negligent infliction of emotion distress ("NIED”), respectively, are not covered by the arbitration agreement.
“[T]he decision as to whether a contractual arbitration clause covers a particular dispute rests substantially on whether the clause in question is ‘broad’ or ‘narrow.’ ” (Rice v. Downs (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 175, 186 “Rice”.) “A ‘broad’ clause includes those using language such as ‘any claim arising from or related to this agreement’ ” [citation] or “arising in connection with the [a]greement”. (Ibid.) “But clauses requiring arbitration of a claim, dispute, or controversy ‘arising from’ or ‘arising out of’ an agreement, i.e., excluding language such as “relating to this agreement” or ‘in connection with this agreement,’ are 'generally considered to be more limited in scope than would be, for example, a clause agreeing to arbitrate “ ‘any controversy ... arising out of or relating to this agreement,’ ” which might thus cover misconduct arising out of the agreement as well as contractual issues.” ’ ” (Ibid.)
Here, the arbitration agreement at issue covers “any and all claims and disputes that arise out of or are related in any way to my employment or the termination of my employment with AHMC.” (Jaquez Decl. 5, Exhibit 1.) The language here is very broad and encompasses Plaintiff’s employment claims. Plaintiff’s eighth and ninth causes of action directly pertain to his employment at SGVMC. Plaintiff alleges he faced a hostile work environment (Complaint 118 and 135) and that he was wrongfully terminated (Id. 120). Plaintiff’s claims relate both to his employment and the termination of his employment at SGVMC. The arbitration agreement expressly covers Plaintiff’s eighth and ninth causes of action.
Request to Stay the Present Proceedings
SGVMC also requests that the Court stay the pending case.
“If any suit or proceeding be brought in any of the courts of the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, the court in which such suit is pending, upon being satisfied that the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration under such an agreement, shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such arbitration has been had in accordance with the terms of the agreement, providing the applicant for the stay is not in default in proceeding with such arbitration.” (9 U.S.C. 3.)
SGVMC’s request for a stay of the current proceedings is granted.
SGVMC’s motion to compel arbitration is granted.
SGVMC’s request for a stay of the present proceedings pending the arbitration is granted.
The status conference currently scheduled for 12/14/22 is vacated and the court sets a
status hearing regarding the arbitration on June 16, 2023, at 8:30.
Moving Party to give notice.
Dated: November 9, 2022
Joel L. Lofton
Judge of the Superior Court
Parties who intend to submit on this tentative must send an email to the court indicating their
intention to submit. Parties intending to appear are strongly encouraged to appear remotely. firstname.lastname@example.org
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