Articles Posted in Arbitration

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Our Chicago non-compete agreement attorneys have defended high level executives in covenant not to compete and trade secret lawsuits. A case in which our firm defended a former Motorola executive was covered in Crain’s Chicago business. You can view that article by clicking here.

DiTommaso Lubin Austermuehle a firm of Chicago business dispute lawyers handles litigation over non-compete clauses for individuals and businesses of all sizes, including small or closely held businesses for whom competition from an ex-employee can be a serious threat. Our Chicago business lawyers with offices near Oak Lawn, Arlington Heights, Oak Brook and Chicago have substantial experience in restrictive covenant and breach of contract cases, and we are proud of our record of strong results. We have successfully represented a number of doctors in non-compete, partnership and other business disputes.  We understand the complexities of physician partnership and non-compete agreements.

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Death is a part of life and that’s even more true in certain places of our communities, such as hospitals and nursing homes. It’s expected that most people will die there or shortly after their stay, but there are still plenty of deaths happening in these places that are preventable.

Liability insurance for the medical industry is much higher than other industries because they need to protect themselves from angry family members looking for someone to blame for their loss. Sometimes they’re just lashing out, but all too frequently, the families have a legitimate complaint and now many of them are claiming that nursing homes have been working to keep allegations against them out of the public eye.

Over the past decade or so, an increasing number of businesses, including nursing homes, have been including arbitration agreements in both their employment and service contracts. The result is that it has become nearly impossible for consumers to do anything without signing away their right to take the company to court in the event of a legal dispute.

Arbitration was created as a way for businesses to settle disputes between themselves without cluttering the courts with their lawsuits. It is a private process that is much less formal, and often less neutral, than our current legal system. For example, is common for negotiations to take place in the offices of an attorney representing one of the parties. Continue reading

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In this online shopping age, when consumers click “place your order” on Amazon.com or any retail website, do they really know what they are agreeing to? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently considered the question in Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., No. 15‐423‐cv (2nd Cir. 2016).

In 2013, Dean N. bought a weight loss pill on Amazon called “One Day Diet,” which unbeknownst to him, contained sibutramine, a controlled, prescription-only substance that had been pulled from the market by the FDA in 2010 because of health risks. Sibutramine was not listed on the site as one of the product’s ingredients, nor did Amazon require a prescription for purchase. The FDA revealed in November 2013 that One Day Diet contained sibutramine.

Dean brought a putative class action against Amazon, alleging the online retailing giant had sold and was continuing to sell weight loss products containing sibutramine in violation of federal law and state consumer protection laws. He alleged breach of implied warranty and unjust enrichment, seeking both damages and an injunction prohibiting Amazon from further sale of products containing sibutramine. Continue reading

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Most of us are familiar with that little box that pops up every time we visit almost any website. It usually says something about agreeing to the terms of service, which are sometimes listed in the box, while other times there’s a link to a full web page devoted to a long list of legal terminology that few people bother to read. More often than not, users check the box without bothering to read all or any of the terms of service so we can go about our business. Reading all the terms of every service we ever use could very well take up most or all our time so we tend to skip over them.

Recently, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff recognized this fact when denying Uber’s motion to compel arbitration that was filed in Manhattan federal court.

Spencer Meyer, an Uber customer from Connecticut, sued the ride share company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, for allegedly participating in a price-fixing scheme with drivers that allegedly raised Uber prices during periods of high demand. Because Uber takes a certain percentage of every driver’s earnings, the lawsuit alleged both Uber and its drivers benefited from the allegedly calculated rise in prices. Although the consumer lawsuit was initially filed only against Kalanick, the complaint was later amended to include Uber as a defendant and that’s when the company asked the court to compel arbitration. Continue reading

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It’s wonderful that the legislation in our country has made so many strides to recognize women’s rights to live and work alongside men without fear of harassment or intimidation. Unfortunately, as has happened with so many other progressive civil rights, what the law says, and what actually happens don’t always coincide.

Companies are not legally allowed to fire employees or refuse to hire candidates based on their gender or as the result of a discrimination lawsuit, but there are other ways employers can (and do) retaliate. Most women who speak out against male colleagues who have harassed them suffer from both personal and professional estrangement. It’s easy enough for employers to find seemingly unrelated reasons for firing their workers and almost impossible for those workers to prove the root cause of their dismissal really stemmed from the fact they dared to defend their own civil rights.

Even companies that publicly claim to support their female employees and condemn sexual harassment are rarely doing more than paying lip service to the law. For example, 21st Century Fox recently released a statement claiming they do not tolerate any behavior that is disrespectful or creates an uncomfortable environment for its employees, but the company has allegedly been failing to live up to that promise for decades. Continue reading

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A corporate defendant waives the right to enforce an arbitration clause in an employment agreement if it asserts an affirmative defense to a complaint that is unrelated to arbitration. So ruled the First District Appellate Court of Illinois in a recent breach of employment contract case called Koehler v. Packer Group Inc., 2016 IL App (1st) 142767.

Michael K. was CEO of Packer Engineering, a subsidiary of The Packer Group. When he reported evidence of alleged financial improprieties on the part of Packer’s chairman to the company’s board, he claims he was dismissed in retaliation. He filed suit against the company for breach of his employment contract, and also against various Packer officers individually for tortious interference with contract, claiming they induced the company to breach the contract. The defendants argued that, pursuant to the contract’s terms, Michael’s claims should have been resolved in arbitration.

Michael’s four-year employment agreement contained an arbitration clause waiving the right to resolve disputes in court. The contract was signed by Michael, Packer’s chairman, and several Packer executives. Michael claimed that after he refused to go along with the alleged financial improprieties, he was offered the option of demotion or termination and chose termination. In his complaint, he sought future salary and bonus compensation plus punitive damages. In its answer, Packer asserted the affirmative defense of Michael’s own breach of the employment agreement, then later moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the arbitration provision deprived the court of jurisdiction. The individual defendants argued that the arbitration clause also applied to Michael’s suit against them for tortious interference, claiming they had signed the agreement in their corporate and not individual capacities. The circuit court ruled that Packer waived its contractual right to arbitrate when it answered Michael’s complaint without asserting the right.   Continue reading

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Have you ever wondered if that bank fee or overdraft charge from your bank was legal? If you tried to challenge your bank in a court of law, chances are you found out you had signed an arbitration agreement, which meant you could not settle the dispute in a court of law. Instead, you had to go through arbitration to accuse your bank of charging illegal fees or mismanaging your money.

If you choose to use arbitration, you have to cover all your legal fees yourself, which can quickly reach thousands of dollars. If you believe your bank has illegally taken funds out of your account, the chances are the amount they took was negligible. Three dollars for an overdraft fee may not seem like much, but for some people it can mean passing on a box of groceries. Even if it’s not much for the individual consumer, if the bank is improperly charging these types of fees to a large portion of its customers, it’s probably making a fortune illegally. Continue reading

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Any time you do anything online, even it’s just visiting a website, you usually have to agree to the company’s Terms of Service. Because these documents can be pages long and we live in an increasingly time-crunched world, very few people actually read the Terms of Service before checking the “Agree” box. Sometimes this lack of diligence gets people into trouble, but depending on how it’s presented, it could be the company that gets into trouble.

When Gary Sgouros filed a proposed class action lawsuit against TransUnion Corp. for allegedly providing worthless credit scores, the company tried to have the dispute sent to arbitration in accordance with the arbitration agreement contained in its Terms of Service.

Sgouros had paid almost $40 for the credit report in 2013 in the hopes of using it to help him negotiate a loan on a new car he was looking to purchase. But the score provided by TransUnion was higher than the number provided to the car dealership by at least 100 points. Sgouros argues this made the credit score he paid for effectively worthless.

In 2014, Sgouros filed the proposed class action lawsuit in Illinois federal court on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated consumers across the country who purchased a credit score from TransUnion any time since 2012. Sgouros is also seeking to represent a subclass of TransUnion customers in Missouri, his home state. Continue reading

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Consumer advocate groups have long been saying the inclusion of arbitration agreements in all sorts of contracts, from cell phone agreements to student loan contracts, unfairly benefits corporations while harming consumers. Corporate advocates claim consumers also benefit from these arbitration agreements, which has turned the argument into a bit of “he said/she said” issue, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) might be able to put the issue to rest.

The bureau published a report in March 2015 that found that mandatory arbitration clauses benefit companies while harming consumers.

An arbitration clause is an agreement included in a contract that states any dispute between the parties will take place in arbitration, rather than in a court of law. Arbitration is handled by private, for-profit arbitration companies, does not provide an explanation for the ruling, and it prohibits appeals and class actions. Because arbitrators are companies that are in business to make money, they’re not always as neutral as court judges. Although there are some arbitration companies that have a reputation for being fair and unbiased, most of them can be influenced by clients that bring in a lot of business for them, even if they’re not consciously aware of this bias.

Arbitration was designed as a way for businesses to handle disputes between themselves without crowding the courts, but in recent years companies have abused the option for arbitration by including clauses in their contracts with their customers and employees that force all disputes into arbitration. It’s hard enough for an individual to get a fair trial in the courts when fighting a large corporation with vast resources, but the arbitration system makes it considerably more difficult for individuals to get a fair hearing. Continue reading

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Arbitration agreements have been sneaking their way into all sorts of contracts, from employment contracts to loan agreements. Originally intended to allow businesses or parties to settle complex disputes between themselves more efficiently, many companies have perverted their use so that they can require arbitration whenever anyone at all has a dispute with them, even individual employees or consumers over relatively small amounts of money or in situations where courts are much better suited to resolve the disputes.  The Courts honor freedom of contract principles and allow for enforcement of arbitration agreements so businesses are using them frequently.

Arbitration agreements can have a number of drawbacks for plaintiffs. The first is that they don’t allow class actions, which means individuals with small claims against a company have no way of combining their claims with other people to create one lawsuit large enough to justify the expenses associated with filing a legal complaint.

Arbitration is also private. They are heard and ruled by for-profit companies, not objective judges or juries. Companies that pay for the arbitration, or bring a lot of business to a single arbitrator, are more likely to get a favorable ruling from that arbitrator. There are arbitrators known for their objectivity and fairness, but some corporations retain the right to choose the arbitrator, and when they have the opportunity to choose between one they have a relationship with and one whose ruling may be unpredictable, the company has little motivation to choose the unbiased arbitrator. Continue reading