Van Dusen v. USDC-AZP

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Date Filed: 07-27-2011
  • Case #: 10-73780
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge O’Grady for the Court; Circuit Judges Hug and Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether § 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) applies to truck drivers raises a jurisdictional question of first impression and does not warrant a writ of mandamus.

Petitioners are truck drivers who entered into independent contractor operating agreements (ICOAs) with Swift Transportation Co. Inc and Interstate Equipment Leasing, Co., Inc. (Respondents). Petitioners sued the Respondents claiming labor law violations. Respondents moved to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration clause within the ICOAs. Petitioners responded by citing § 1 of the FAA, which outlines exemptions to the federal courts ability to compel arbitration under § 4 in cases involving employees engaged in foreign or interstate commerce. The district court did not answer the question of whether §1 applied and ordered arbitration. Petitioners now seek mandamus relief after their appeal was denied. The Ninth Circuit decided that without a showing of clear error by the district court, mandamus was unwarranted. The ultimate question of the applicability of the exception raises the question of whether the arbitrator or the district court has the authority to rule on that question. Though the Ninth Circuit agreed with petitioner’s legal theory of the applicability of § 1 of the FAA, the question was one of first impression. “The absence of controlling precedent weighs strongly against a finding of clear error.” DENIED

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