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Rittmann v. Amazon.com, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

February 3, 2020, Argued and Submitted, Seattle, Washington; August 19, 2020, Filed

No. 19-35381

Opinion

 [*907]  M. SMITH, Circuit Judge:

Defendants Amazon.com, Inc. and Amazon Logistics, Inc. (together, Amazon) appeal the district court's order denying their motion to compel arbitration of Plaintiff Raef Lawson's federal and state wage and hour claims. Lawson is one of four named Plaintiffs in this suit. Unlike the other named Plaintiffs, Lawson agreed to all of Amazon's Terms of Service (TOS) when he signed up to work as a delivery provider for Amazon's app-based delivery program, Amazon Flex (AmFlex), including the arbitration provision at issue here.

The primary issue that we address is whether AmFlex delivery workers are exempt from the Federal Arbitration Act's (FAA), 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq., enforcement provisions because they are transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce. In denying Amazon's motion to compel, the district court concluded that AmFlex delivery providers fall within the scope of the FAA's transportation worker exemption pursuant to § 1 because they deliver goods shipped from across the United States. The court further determined [**3]  that the TOS bars application of Washington state law to the arbitration provision. As a result, the court concluded that there is no valid arbitration agreement between Amazon and Lawson, and denied the motion to compel. We affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

I. The AmFlex Program

Plaintiffs Bernadean Rittmann, Freddie Carroll, Julia Wehmeyer, and Raef Lawson contracted with Amazon Logistics, Inc. to provide delivery services for AmFlex. Amazon Logistics, Inc. is a subsidiary of Amazon.com, Inc., an online retailer that sells its own products and provides fulfillment services for third-party sellers who also sell their products on Amazon.com.

Historically, Amazon has shipped products by using large third-party delivery providers such as FedEx and UPS. Recently, it has supplemented those delivery services by contracting with local delivery providers through its AmFlex program, which is available in certain metropolitan areas in the United States. In the AmFlex program, Amazon contracts with individuals to make "last mile" deliveries of products from Amazon warehouses to the products' destinations using the AmFlex smart phone application. AmFlex participants use a personal vehicle [**4]  or bicycle, or public transportation, to deliver products ordered through the Amazon website or mobile applications. They pick up assigned packages from an Amazon warehouse and drive an assigned route to deliver the packages. AmFlex delivery providers occasionally cross state lines to make deliveries, but most of their deliveries take place intrastate. At the end of each shift, the delivery providers return undelivered packages to Amazon's warehouses.

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971 F.3d 904 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 26310 **

BERNADEAN RITTMANN, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; FREDDIE CARROLL, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; JULIA WEHMEYER, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; RAEF LAWSON, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated; in his capacity as Private Attorney General Representative; IAIN MACK, in his capacity as Private Attorney General Representative, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. AMAZON.COM, INC.; AMAZON LOGISTICS, INC., Defendants-Appellants.

Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, En banc, Rehearing denied by Rittmann v. Amazon.Com, Inc., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 30695 (9th Cir. Wash., Sept. 25, 2020)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. D.C. No. 2:16-cv-01554-JCC. John C. Coughenour, District Judge, Presiding.

Rittmann v. Amazon.com, Inc., 383 F. Supp. 3d 1196, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68755, 2019 WL 1777725 (W.D. Wash., Apr. 23, 2019)

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

commerce, interstate, Amazon, delivery, transportation, exemption, arbitration, railroad, packages, drivers, residual, restaurant, warehouse, intrastate, customer, shipped, food, retailer, destinations, Dictionary, pizza, poultry, quotations, carrier, sauce, line-drawing, enumerated, coverage, stream, meals

Business & Corporate Compliance, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Arbitration, Arbitrability, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Questions of Fact & Law, Pretrial Matters, Judicial Review, Federal Arbitration Act, Orders to Compel Arbitration, Admiralty & Maritime Law, Federal Arbitration Act, Labor & Employment Law, Conditions & Terms, Arbitration Provisions, Enforcement, Arbitration Agreements, Scope, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Commerce Clause, Commerce With Other Nations, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, Definition of Commerce, Intrastate Commerce, Tests, Antitrust & Trade Law, Regulated Industries, Transportation, Railroads, Validity of ADR Methods, Supremacy Clause, Federal Preemption, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions, Severability Clauses, Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, Severability, Federal & State Interrelationships, Choice of Law, Forum & Place, State & Territorial Governments, Relations With Governments