Limon v. Abm Indus. Groups, LLC

Decision Date31 July 2018
Docket NumberCase No.: 3:18-cv-00701
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of California
PartiesMARIA LIMON, Plaintiff, v. ABM INDUSTRY GROUPS, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAYING ACTION

Plaintiff Maria Limon ("Plaintiff") brings this action against Defendant ABM Industry Groups, LLC ("Defendant") asserting seven causes of action arising from her employment with Defendant. Defendant moves to compel arbitration of Plaintiff's claims pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act. See Doc. No. 9. Plaintiff filed an opposition to Defendant's motion, to which Defendant replied. See Doc. Nos. 12, 13. The Court found the matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7.1.d.1. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion to compel arbitration.

BACKGROUND

On November 3, 2015, Plaintiff began working as a cleaner for Defendant's Janitorial Services division. That same day, Plaintiff initialed and signed a document entitled "Mutual Arbitration Agreement." Doc. No. 9-2, Ex. A. The Arbitration Agreement, a three-page document, provides in pertinent part:

The Company and I agree as follows ... Final and binding arbitration before a single, neutral arbitrator shall be the exclusive remedy for any "Covered Claim" ... A "Covered Claim" is any claim (except a claim that by law is non-arbitrable) that arises between me and the Company, its past, present and future: parent(s), subsidiaries, affiliates, and/or their respective past, present and future: officers, directors and/or employees, including but not limited to claims arising and/or relating in any way to my hiring, my employment with, and/or the severance of my employment with, the Company.

...

Arbitration will occur in the county in the United States in which I reside at the time the claim is filed by any of the parties to this agreement reside. Arbitration will be conducted pursuant to the AAA Employment Arbitration Rules and Mediation Procedures (the "AAA Rules"), except as expressly set forth herein or where such rules are not in compliance with applicable state or federal law. A copy of the AAA rules is available for review through the Company by submitting a request to the Legal Department, by contacting AAA at telephone number 888-774-6904, or at AAA's website at www.adr.com.

Id. at 5.

On February 15, 2017, while working for Defendant, Plaintiff struck the side of her head on a counter. A few days later, after experiencing significant pain, Plaintiff went to the emergency room at Scripps Mercy hospital, where she was informed she injured her sciatic nerve. Due to her injury, Plaintiff was put on light work duty. As a result of being on light work duty, Plaintiff alleges she was mistreated by her employer, and was eventually terminated on March 6, 2018. This lawsuit ensued.

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LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") permits "[a] party aggrieved by the alleged failure, neglect, or refusal of another to arbitrate under a written agreement for arbitration [to] petition any United States District Court ... for an order directing that ... arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in [the arbitration] agreement." 9 U.S.C. § 4. Upon a showing that a party has failed to comply with a valid arbitration agreement, the district court must issue an order compelling arbitration. Id.

The Supreme Court has stated that the FAA espouses a general policy favoring arbitration agreements. See AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333, 339 (2011). Federal courts are required to rigorously enforce an agreement to arbitrate. See id. Courts are also directed to resolve any "ambiguities as to the scope of the arbitration clause itself ... in favor of arbitration." Volt Info. Scis., Inc. v. Bd. Of Trs. Of Leland Stanford Jr. Univ., 489 U.S. 468, 476-77 (1989).

In determining whether to compel a party to arbitration, the Court may not review the merits of the dispute; rather, the Court's role under the FAA is limited "to determining (1) whether a valid agreement to arbitrate exists and, if it does, (2) whether the agreement encompasses the dispute at issue." Cox v. Ocean View Hotel Corp., 533 F.3d 1114, 1119 (9th Cir. 2008) (internal quotations and citation omitted). If the Court finds that the answers to those questions are "yes," the Court must compel arbitration. See Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985). 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]." Concat LP v. Unilever, PLC, 350 F. Supp. 2d 796, 804 (N.D. Cal. 2004).

Agreements to arbitrate are "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. Court must apply ordinary state law principles in determining whether to invalidate an agreement to arbitrate. See Ferguson v. Countrywide Credit Indus., 298 F.3d 778, 782 (9th Cir. 2002). As such, arbitration agreements may be invalidated by generallyapplicable contract defenses, such as fraud, duress, or unconscionability. Concepcion, 563 U.S. at 339-41.

DISCUSSION
A. Evidentiary Objections

As a preliminary matter, Defendant objects to evidence submitted in support of Plaintiff's opposition, see Doc. Nos. 13-2, 13-3, including a copy of Defendant's offer to compromise with Plaintiff regarding this action, and portions of Plaintiff's declaration.

Defendant objects to the submission of its offer to compromise with Plaintiff on the grounds that it is irrelevant. See Doc. No. 13-3 at 2. The Court ultimately did not rely on the offer to compromise to reach its disposition. As such, this objection is moot.

Defendant also objects to Plaintiff's declaration on the grounds that, inter alia, her statements have not been properly authenticated. See Doc. No. 13-2, at 2-5. Defendant argues that the declaration lacks proper authentication of testimony translated from Spanish. Written translations must be properly authenticated. See Fed. R. Evid. 901(a). As such, "[w]itness testimony translated from a foreign language must be properly authenticated and any interpretation must be shown to be an accurate translation done by a competent translator." Jack v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 854 F. Supp. 654, 659 (N.D. Cal. 1994) (citing Fed. R. Evid. 604 & 901). Plaintiff's declaration is submitted without a translator's verification or sufficient indication that the testimony was accurately translated. The declaration is therefore not properly authenticated. See Consejo de Desarrollo Economico de Mexicali, AC v. United States, 438 F. Supp. 2d 1207, 1226 (D. Nev. 2006) (sustaining objection to declarations that appeared to have been written originally in Spanish and later translated into English, absent any indication that the English versions of the declarations were true and correct translations). Accordingly, the Court SUSTAINS Defendant's objection to Plaintiff's declaration.

B. Defendant's Motion to Compel

Defendant moves to compel arbitration, arguing that Plaintiff agreed to arbitrate all disputes arising out of her employment with ABM. In opposition, Plaintiff argues thatthe Arbitration Agreement is procedurally and substantively unconscionable. Moreover, Plaintiff asserts that "the Arbitration Agreement does not allow for adequate discovery." Doc. No. 12 at 2. The Court addresses the parties' arguments in turn.

1. A Valid Agreement to Arbitrate Exists

The Court first considers whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate between the parties. See Cox, 533 F.3d at 1119. A party moving to compel arbitration must prove the existence of a valid arbitration agreement by a preponderance of the evidence. See Olvera v. El Pollo Loco, Inc., 93 Cal. Rptr. 3d 65, 71 (Cal. Ct. App. 2009). When determining the existence of valid arbitration agreements, "federal courts 'should apply ordinary state-law-principles that govern the formation of contracts." Ingle v. Circuit City Stores, Inc., 328 F.3d 1165, 1170 (9th Cir. 2003) (quoting First Options of Chi., Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944 (1995)).

Here, the Court finds that a valid agreement to arbitrate exists. Defendant presents the Arbitration Agreement, bearing the signature of "Maria Limon," as well was the initials "ML." See Doc. No. 9-2, Ex. A. Plaintiff does not dispute that she signed the Arbitration Agreement. Accordingly, the Court finds that Defendant has met its burden of proving the existence of a valid arbitration agreement by a preponderance of the evidence. See Owens v. Intertec Design, Inc., 38 Cal. App. 4th 72, 75 (Cal. Ct. App. 1995) (holding "the arbitration agreement must be enforced as a matter of law" where the plaintiff "presented no evidence, by declaration or otherwise, in support of the 'facts' underlying his arguments in opposition to the [motion to compel arbitration.]").

Second, the Court must consider whether the Arbitration Agreement encompasses Plaintiff's claims. See Cox, 553 F.3d at 1119. The Arbitration Agreement expressly provides that the Plaintiff agrees to "arbitrate claims between [Plaintiff and ABM]," "arising from and/or relating in any way to any aspect of my hiring, my employment and/or the severance of my employment." See Doc. No. 9-2, Ex. A at 2. All of Plaintiff's claims arise from her employment and termination of employment withDefendant. Thus, the Arbitration Agreement's language clearly encompasses Plaintiff's employment-related claims against Defendant.

2. The Arbitration Agreement is Not Unconscionable

Plaintiff argues that even if a valid agreement to arbitrate exists, the Arbitration Agreement is procedurally and substantively unconscionable. See Doc. No. 12 at 2. Plaintiff asserts that the agreement is procedurally unconscionable because of its adhesive nature, and that it was provided in a language she...

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