Law School Case Brief
Vincent v. AT&T Mobility Servs., LLC - 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156280 (N.D. Ala. Nov. 19, 2015)
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has found that courts should apply a Rule 56 summary judgment standard in evaluating motions to compel arbitration that are considered as factual attacks on subject matter jurisdiction. That is, to make a genuine issue entitling the party seeking to avoid arbitration to a trial by jury on the arbitrability question, an unequivocal denial that the agreement had been made is needed, and some evidence should be produced to substantiate the denial.
Plaintiff Jennifer Vincent filed a complaint in federal district court against defendants AT&T Mobility Services, LLC and Torvac Amos alleging sexual harassment, retaliation, and retaliatory discharge. Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration, arguing that those claims were subject to the Management Arbitration Agreement ("Agreement") mandating the arbitration of disputes related to employment. Vincent was sent various emails in late 2011, advising her that unless she followed the instructions to opt out of the program by Feb. 6, 2012, she would be agreeing to the arbitration process. Vincent argued that she opted out of the Agreement, following the electronic opt-out procedure, after discussing the Agreement with her manager. Defendants argued that plaintiff did not opt out of the Agreement.
Should the court grant defendants' motion to compel the arbitration of Vincent's claims of sexual harassment, retaliation, and retaliatory discharge?
The motion to compel arbitration was denied. The court applied the F.R.C.P. 56 summary judgment standard in evaluating the motion to compel because the motion was in effect a factual attack on the court's subject matter jurisdiction. In applying that standard, denial of the motion was warranted because Vincent, by affidavit, averred that she opted out of the Agreement to arbitrate, which created a dispute of fact in the record in that there was no meeting of the minds with regard to the Agreement. The court directed the parties to engage in discovery limited to the issues presented in the motion to compel.
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