On 08/28/2020 VERONICA RUBIO filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against THE BICYCLE CASINO, L P. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
THE BICYCLE CASINO L.P.
LIPELES KEVIN A
FELDMAN CARLA J
3/10/2021: Reply - REPLY DEFENDANT THE BICYCLE CASINO, L.P.S REPLY IN SUPPORT OF PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
3/18/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION; CASE MANAGEMENT CONF...)
3/19/2021: Notice of Ruling
2/22/2021: Declaration - DECLARATION OF ALEKSANDRA URBAN IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
2/22/2021: Declaration - DECLARATION OF VERONICA RUBIO IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
2/22/2021: Memorandum - MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN OPPOSITION TO MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
3/3/2021: Case Management Statement
2/16/2021: Notice - NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE AND HEARING ON MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION
1/12/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE)
12/24/2020: Case Management Statement
11/12/2020: Declaration - DECLARATION OF CRISTINA STEPHENS IN SUPPORT OF THE PETITION TO COMPEL
11/12/2020: Declaration - DECLARATION OF AMY B. PINSKE IN SUPPORT OF THE PETITION TO COMPEL
11/12/2020: Motion to Compel Arbitration
11/12/2020: Memorandum of Points & Authorities
11/23/2020: Notice - NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
10/29/2020: Proof of Service by Substituted Service
8/28/2020: Notice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil Case
Hearing08/01/2022 at 08:30 AM in Department 49 at 111 North Hill Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012; Hearing on Motion - Other (re: any post-arbitration issues is RESERVED) AND Status ConferenceRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 08:31 AM in Department 49; Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration - Not Held - Advanced and Continued - by CourtRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by Veronica Rubio (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 49; Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration - Held - Motion GrantedRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 49; Case Management Conference - HeldRead MoreRead Less
DocketOrder (RULING); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration; Case Management Conf...)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketReply (DEFENDANT THE BICYCLE CASINO, L.P.?S REPLY IN SUPPORT OF PETITION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION); Filed by The Bicycle Casino, L.P. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 49; Case Management Conference - Not Held - Rescheduled by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 09:30 AM in Department 49; Hearing on Motion to Compel Arbitration - Not Held - Rescheduled by CourtRead MoreRead Less
DocketMemorandum of Points & Authorities; Filed by The Bicycle Casino, L.P. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketMotion to Compel Arbitration; Filed by The Bicycle Casino, L.P. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketDeclaration (of Amy B. Pinske In Support of the Petition to Compel); Filed by The Bicycle Casino, L.P. (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketProof of Service by Substituted Service; Filed by Veronica Rubio (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Posting of Jury Fees; Filed by Veronica Rubio (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by Veronica Rubio (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketSummons (on Complaint); Filed by Veronica Rubio (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil Case; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by Veronica Rubio (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Case Number: 20STCV33132 Hearing Date: March 18, 2021 Dept: 49
Superior Court of California
County of Los Angeles
The Bicycle Casino, L.P.
Hearing Date: March 18, 2021
Department 49, Judge Stuart M. Rice
Defendant’s Motion to Compel Arbitration
Moving Party: Defendant The Bicycle Casino, L.P.
Responding Party: Plaintiff Veronica Rubio
Ruling: Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration is granted. This action is stayed pending resolution of arbitration.
Defendant The Bicycle Casino, L.P. (“Defendant”) moves to compel Plaintiff Veronica Rubio (“Plaintiff”) to arbitrate her claims.
Even where the FAA governs the interpretation of arbitration clauses, California law governs whether an arbitration agreement has been formed in the first instance. (Baker v. Osborne Development Corp. (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 884, 893.)
Code of Civil Procedure section 1281.2 states, in relevant part:
[o]n petition of a party to an arbitration agreement alleging the existence of a written agreement to arbitrate a controversy and that a party thereto refuses to arbitrate such controversy, the court shall order the petitioner and the respondent to arbitrate the controversy if it determines that an agreement to arbitrate the controversy exists . . .
“California law reflects a strong public policy in favor of arbitration as a relatively quick and inexpensive method for resolving disputes. To further that policy, section 1281.2 requires a trial court to enforce a written arbitration agreement unless one of three limited exceptions applies. Those statutory exceptions arise where (1) a party waives the right to arbitration; (2) grounds exist for revoking the arbitration agreement; and (3) pending litigation with a third party creates the possibility of conflicting rulings on common factual or legal issues.” (Acquire II, Ltd. v. Colton Real Estate Group (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 959, 967, citations omitted.)
“There is no public policy favoring arbitration of disputes which the parties have not agreed to arbitrate.” (Engineers & Architects Assn. v. Community Development Dept. (1994) 30 Cal.App.4th 644, 653.) Nevertheless, the strong public policy promoting private arbitration of civil disputes gives rise to a presumption in favor of arbitrability and compels the Court to construe liberally the terms of the arbitration agreement. (Vianna v. Doctors’ Management Co. (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 1186, 1189).
“The petitioner 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. In these summary proceedings, the trial court sits as a trier of fact, weighing all the affidavits, declarations, and other documentary evidence, as well as oral testimony received at the court's discretion, to reach a final determination.” (Giuliano v. Inland Empire Personnel, Inc. (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 1276, 1284.)
“The party opposing arbitration has the burden of demonstrating that an arbitration clause cannot be interpreted to require arbitration of the dispute. Nonetheless, this policy does not override ordinary principles of contract interpretation. The contractual terms themselves must be carefully examined before the parties to the contract can be ordered to arbitration: Although [t]he law favors contracts for arbitration of disputes between parties, there is no policy compelling persons to accept arbitration of controversies which they have not agreed to arbitrate.” (Rice v. Downs (2016) 247 Cal.App.4th 1213, 1223, citations and quotations omitted.)
Existence of an Arbitration Agreement
Per the Complaint, Plaintiff was hired by Defendant as a cook in 2014. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Defendant argues that during her employment, “and on or around September 11, 2014, Plaintiff executed an Arbitration Agreement that expressly requires her to arbitrate each of the claims raised in this action.” (Motion 6:16-17.) Defendant submits the purported agreement as Exhibit A to the declaration of Cristina Stephens, Director of Human Resources for Defendant. (Stephens Decl. ¶¶ 2-3, Exh. A.)
The agreement provides in relevant part as follows:
…the Company and I will utilize binding arbitration to resolve all disputes that may arise out of the employment context. Both the Company and I agree that any claim, dispute and/or controversy that either I may have against the Company (or its owners, directors, officers, managers, employees, agents, and parties affiliated with its employee benefits and health plans) or the Company may have against me, arising from, related to, or having any relationship or connection whatsoever with my seeking employment with, employment by, or any other association with Company shall be submitted to and determined exclusively by binding arbitration……Included within the scope of this Agreement are all disputes, whether they be based on the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, or any other state or federal law or regulation, equitable law, or otherwise… I understand and agree to this binding arbitration provision, and both I and the Company give up our right to trial by jury of any claim I or the Company may have against each other.
The agreement contains the signature and printed name of Veronica Rubio and is dated September 11, 2014.
In opposition, Plaintiff argues that there are in fact two different arbitration clauses. Plaintiff argues that “[o]ne ‘agreement’ was handed to RUBIO as an employment agreement on the date she began work and the other was hidden within her online employment application.” (Opp. 6:15-17.) Exhibit B to the Stephens declaration is a document entitled “Request for Transfer or Promotion,” which contains an “Agreement to Arbitrate” on pages 6 and 7. (Stevens Decl. Exh. B.) The agreement is initialed and signed by Plaintiff on September 11, 2014. (Id.)
Plaintiff contends that these two clauses vary vastly in form, but a review of the two agreements does not reveal such material discrepancies. In addition, the second agreement was part of Plaintiff’s Request for Transfer or Promotion, which would not appear to be a condition of her employment as she contends below. Regardless, Plaintiff does not argue why the existence of two agreements, to which she ascribed her signatures, somehow demonstrates that no agreement exists. Plaintiff also argues that Plaintiff’s lack of proficiency in English warrants a denial of this motion. “RUBIO does not speak or read much English. While she is bright enough to remember a few catch-phrases related to employment applications, she does not have any significant comprehension of the content of longer sentences or paragraphs.” (Opp. 6:18-20.)
As a general rule under California law, arguments that arbitration provisions are unenforceable because the party did not carefully read the agreements, did not understand the significance of the arbitration provisions, and did not knowingly waive their right to a jury trial may not be used to invalidate a written arbitration provision. (Powers v. Dickson, Carlson & Campillo (1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 1102, 1109.) “Ordinarily when a person with capacity of reading and understanding an instrument signs it, he may not, in the absence of fraud, imposition or excusable neglect, avoid its terms on the ground he failed to read it before signing it.” (Bauer v. Jackson (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 358, 370.)
Plaintiff submits her declaration in Spanish and a translation performed by Miguelina Mendez, a hispanophone paralegal of Plaintiff’s counsel. Plaintiff declares that she was born in Mexico and speaks and reads very little English. (Pl. Decl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiff attended two years of high school in El Paso, TX, and attended culinary school in Pasadena, but declares that she had Spanish-speaking friends and was not required to converse in English because translation was provided for her. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.) Plaintiff declares that she applied for employment with Defendant online from her home, and then declares as follows: “I applied online myself and guessed the answers and some of the longer questions. I didn't understand them, but I gave them the answer that I thought was supposed and should.” (Id. ¶¶ 4, 5, grammatical errors in original.)
This evidence before the court reflects a lack of diligence rather than an inability to understand the documents. On her Request for Transfer or Promotion, Plaintiff indicated that she was fluent in Spanish and “intermediate” in English. (Stevens Decl. Exh. B, p. 10.) Plaintiff was able to understand and complete the online application form, including several entries which required the drafting of a response in English. Plaintiff ratified the subject arbitration clause language not once but twice, and the responses to the employment application form do not reflect guesses, but rather an understanding of the questions posed.
Plaintiff demonstrated a proficiency in English adequate to understand and apply for her employment and affixed her signature twice to language which binds her to submit disputes arising from her employment to arbitration. Defendant has met its burden on this issue, and the court addresses Plaintiff’s arguments as to the enforceability of the agreement below.
Plaintiff argues that the arbitration agreement is procedurally unconscionable because Plaintiff never had an opportunity to negotiate its terms and was not in a position to turn down work. In other words, Plaintiff asserts that the subject arbitration agreement is “a non-negotiable contract of adhesion.” (Opp. 10:24. However, the adhesive nature of the agreement does not, in and of itself, render the arbitration agreement unconscionable. (Dotson, supra at 981; McManus v. CIBC World Markets Corp. (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 76, 89.) The adhesive nature of an agreement is just the beginning, not the end, of the inquiry into its enforceability. (Pinela v. Neiman Marcus Group., Inc. (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 227, 242.)
While the arbitration clauses referenced above reflect a degree of procedural unconscionability, a finding of procedural unconscionability alone does not warrant the invalidation of the agreement. A contract will be found to be unconscionable when: (1) it is adhesive, in that all or part of the contract falls outside the reasonable expectations of the weaker party; and (2) equitably, the terms unreasonably favor the other party. (Stirlen v. Supercuts (1997) 51 Cal.App.4th 1519, 1530-33.)
An agreement to arbitrate is unenforceable only if both the procedural and substantive elements are satisfied. (Stirlen v. Supercuts, Inc. (1997) 51 Cal.App.4th 1519, 1533.) However, “the 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.” (McManus v. CIBC World Markets Corp. (2003) 109 Cal.App.4th 76, 87.) As Plaintiff has made only a moderate showing of procedural unconscionability premised on the adhesive nature of the employment and arbitration agreements, Plaintiff must demonstrate a higher level of substantive unconscionability.
Plaintiff contends that the arbitration clause submitted as Exhibit A to the Stevens declaration “is one-sided and obligates RUBIO to submit to binding arbitration for claims not only against TBC but a whole litany of persons. TBC names specifically claims against its owners, directors, officers, managers, employees, agents yet omits these specified parties in the part where it discusses the company claims against RUBIO.” (Opp. 12:21-23.) The agreement provides as follows:
[b]oth the Company and I agree that any claim, dispute, and or controversy that either I may have against the Company (or its owners, directors, officers, managers, employees, agents, and parties affiliated with its employee benefit and health plans) or the Company may have against me arising from, related to, or having any relationship or connection whatsoever with my seeking employment with, employment by or other association with the Company shall be submitted to and determined exclusively by binding arbitration.
Plaintiff contends that the agreement inhibits Plaintiff from bringing a multitude of claims in court against the officers, employees, or agents of Defendant, but does not inhibit such parties from bringing a claim in court against Plaintiff, and thus, the agreement lacks mutuality in favor of Defendant.
In reply, Defendant attempts to discredit this argument, and asserts that Plaintiff “then proceeds to make up a completely hypothetical situation where she is both injured by a TBC Director somehow acting in his personal capacity, and also herself somehow injures a TBC director outside of work, in a feeble attempt to argue that the arbitration agreement at issue here somehow is unilateral rather than mutual, because one hypothetical situation might require arbitration, while another hypothetical situation might not. This argument only reveals Plaintiff’s desperation and the lengths she and her counsel will go to in order to avoid the arbitration.” (Reply 8:15-20.)
The court disagrees with this assertion. It does not translate as “desperation” where a hypothetical may be used to illustrate the shortcomings of Defendant’s arbitration agreement. If such hypothetical were inaccurate or required the assumption of alternative facts, it would be unpersuasive. It remains Plaintiff’s interpretation of the agreement that it forces Plaintiff to arbitrate all claims against Defendant and Defendant’s officers, agents, employees, and even parties affiliated with its employee benefit and health plans but does not require said parties to arbitrate any claims they may have against Plaintiff. It is of little significance whether Defendant considers these claims unlikely or “even possible.” (Reply 8:21.)
Nevertheless, the court disagrees with Plaintiff’s position, and interprets this agreement to bilaterally bind Defendant and Plaintiff to arbitrate disputes arising from Plaintiff’s employment. Specifically, the court interprets the word “Company” to incorporate the statement contained with parenthesis within the word “Company” throughout its use in the agreement. It is the most reasonable interpretation to conclude that in drafting “the Company (or its owners, directors, officers, managers, employees, agents, and parties affiliated with its employee benefit and health plans),” the parties intended subsequent references to “Company” to encompass the parties listed within the parenthesis, especially where the word “Company” is employed twice within the same sentence.
In its motion, Defendant argues that “the interests of justice are served if the Court severs any provisions it considers to be unenforceable to ensure that the remainder of the Agreement entered into between Plaintiff and Defendant is enforced according to its terms.” (Motion 16:18-20.) However, as stated above, the agreement as interpreted does not impose differing requirements on Plaintiff and Defendant. Rather, the agreement reflects mutuality because it requires both parties, including Defendant’s agents, etc. to arbitrate all claims arising from Plaintiff’s employment.
The agreement unequivocally provides for a bilateral obligation to arbitrate between Plaintiff and Defendant. Thus, there is no finding of substantive unconscionability premised on a lack of mutuality. As stated above, a finding of unconscionability requires both procedural and substantive unconscionability. Here, there is only a moderate showing of procedural unconscionability and no showing of substantive unconscionability. Accordingly, the agreement is not so unconscionable to warrant its unenforceability.
Defendant’s Motion to Compel Arbitration is granted. This matter shall be stayed pending resolution of arbitration with a return date to be set at the hearing on the motion.
Defendant is ordered to provide notice of this ruling.
Date: March 18, 2021
Honorable Stuart M. Rice
Judge of the Superior Court
Get Deeper Insights on Court Cases