Law School Case Brief
Ruiz v. Moss Bros. Auto Grp., Inc. - 232 Cal. App. 4th 836, 181 Cal. Rptr. 3d 781 (2014)
Code Civ. Proc., § 1281.2, requires a court to order arbitration if it determines that an agreement to arbitrate exists. Code Civ. Proc., §§ 1281.2 and 1290.2, create a summary proceeding for resolving petitions to compel arbitration. The petitioner bears the burden of proving the existence of a valid arbitration agreement by a preponderance of the evidence, while a party opposing the petition bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence any fact necessary to its defense. The trial court sits as the trier of fact, weighing all the affidavits, declarations, and other documentary evidence, and any oral testimony the court may receive at its discretion, to reach a final determination.
Plaintiff Ernest Ruiz filed a putative class action complaint in California state court alleging that defendant Moss Bros. Auto Group, Inc. ("Moss Bros."), failed to pay Ruiz and other employees overtime and other wages for all hours worked, provide required meal and rest breaks, provide accurate and complete wage statements, reimburse business expenses, and pay final wages in a timely manner. The complaint also alleged representative claims for civil penalties on behalf of Ruiz, the other employees, and the state, pursuant to the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004. Moss Bros. filed a petition to compel arbitration of the employment-related and putative class action. The trial court denied the petition to compel arbitration on the ground that Moss Bros. did not meet its burden of proving the parties had an agreement to arbitrate the controversy.
Did the trial court err by denying the petition to compel arbitration?
The appellate court affirmed the order denying the petition. The court held that Moss Bros. could not compel arbitration because there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that Ruiz electronically signed the arbitration agreement. Moss Bros. business manager asserted in her initial declaration that Ruiz was the person who electronically signed the agreement, but she did not explain how she arrived at that conclusion. In the face of the Ruiz's failure to recall electronically signing the agreement, the fact the agreement had an electronic signature on it in his name with a date and time stamp for the signature was insufficient to support a finding that the electronic signature was, in fact, the act of Ruiz, as required by Civ. Code, § 1633.9. The court also held that the factual allegations in the petition to compel arbitration did not have to be deemed admitted, even though the Ruiz's response to the petition was untimely.
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