Illinois Federal Court Orders Defendant To Pay Over $4 Million In Arbitration Fees In Mass Arbitration Alleging Violation Of The BIPA

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Rebecca S. Bjork and Derek Franklin

Duane Morris Takeaways: Mass arbitration continues to be a formidable tool for plaintiffs’ attorneys seeking to deal with class action waivers in arbitration agreements. This trend is aptly demonstrated by a new ruling in Wallrich, et al. v. Samsung, Case No. 22-CV-5506 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 12, 2023), where Judge Harry D. Leinenweber of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ordered the defendants – who had been served with just shy of 50,000 arbitration demands – to pay the arbitration fees and submit to arbitrating consumers’ claims that the defendants had committed violations of the Illinois privacy laws.  Those fees had been waived by the arbitration authority, as allowed by a provision in its’ supplemental rules, but the Court sided with the plaintiffs, who had moved to compel arbitration after the fees were waived, and seeking also to require the defendants to pay them.

Case Background

The Named Plaintiffs filed 49,986 arbitration claims with the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) on September 7, 2022 on behalf of consumers who are users of Samsung mobile devices. Id. at 2, 5.  They alleged that the defendants had unlawfully collected their biometric information in violation of the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act.  The user agreement required all disputes be resolved in final, binding arbitration and it prohibited class actions.  Id. at 3.

The agreement also required use of the services of the AAA and explicitly invoked the AAA’s rules, including its supplemental rules relating to arbitration fees.  Id.  On September 27, 2022, Samsung refused to pay its portion of the initial arbitration fees to the AAA because it believed the claimants included deceased individuals and others who did not reside in Illinois.  Id. at 6.  Plaintiffs responded by moving to compel arbitration on October 7, 2022.  Id. at 7.

The Court’s Decision

Judge Leinenweber compelled arbitration of the claims of living, Illinois resident petitioners and ordered the respondents to pay the AAA arbitration fees. He first concluded that the arbitration agreements are valid between Samsung and those who actually are its consumers.  Id. at 21-22.  Second, he noted that as to the petitioners that respondents suspected were either deceased or not Illinois residents, he explained that petitioners’ counsel used Samsung’s own customer list to remove ineligible petitioners.  Id.  Third, he determined that the arbitration agreement left questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator, thereby declining to rule on respondents’ argument that the collective action waiver in the agreement applies to mass arbitrations, which would bar petitioners’ claims with the AAA.  Id. at 25.  Finally he ruled that he had the authority to construe and enforce the AAA’s rules about arbitration fees, and determined that respondents are required to pay approximately $4.13 million in fees.  Id. at 30, 33-34.

Implications For Employers

As corporations who employ large numbers of individuals in their workforces know, agreements to arbitrate claims related to employment-related disputes are common.  They serve the important strategic function of minimizing class action litigation risks.  But corporate counsel also are aware that increasingly, plaintiffs’ attorneys have come to understand that arbitration agreements can be used to create leverage points for their clients.  Mass arbitrations seek to put pressure on respondents to settle claims on behalf of large numbers of people, even though not via the procedural vehicle of filing a class or collective action lawsuit.   As a result, corporate counsel should carefully review arbitration agreement language with an eye towards mitigating the risks of mass arbitrations as well as class actions.

California Supreme Court Rules That So Long As They Are Aggrieved, PAGA Plaintiffs Can First Pursue Individual Claims In Arbitration And Then Can Pursue Non-Individual Claims In Court

By Eden E. Anderson, Rebecca S. Bjork, and Gerald L. Maatman, Jr.

Duane Morris Takeaways: On July 17, 2023, the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc., No. S274671 (July 17, 2023), addressing standing requirements under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (“PAGA”).  The Supreme Court held that, once a PAGA plaintiff’s individual claims are compelled to arbitration, the plaintiff retains standing to maintain non-individual, representative PAGA claims in court so long as they are an aggrieved employee.  If the plaintiff loses in arbitration, they are not aggrieved and therefore lack standing.  However, if the plaintiff prevails or settles their individual claims in arbitration, they can then return to court to prosecute their non-individual PAGA claims.  For companies facing PAGA claims, the ruling in Adolph is required reading, as it will usher in a new period of workplace litigation in California.

Case Background

Erik Adolph, an Uber delivery driver, alleged that Uber misclassified him as an independent contractor.  Although Adolph initially sought to maintain a class action, those efforts were thwarted by a class action waiver in his workplace arbitration agreement.  Adolph then amended his complaint to allege PAGA claims.  The trial court denied Uber’s motion to compel arbitration, and the Court of Appeal affirmed on the basis of California’s prior rule, under Iskanian v. CLS Transportation, 59 Cal. 4th 348 (2014), that PAGA claims cannot be split into individual and non-individual parts and that a PAGA claim was non-arbitrable.

Uber filed a Petition for Review and, while it was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, 142 S.Ct. 1906 (2022), holding that PAGA claims are divisible and that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted California law insofar as it precluded arbitration of an individual PAGA claim.  The U.S. Supreme Court further opined that, once a PAGA plaintiff’s individual claims are compelled to arbitration, they lose standing to pursue non-individual PAGA claims.  Against this backdrop, the California Supreme Court granted review in Adolph.

The California Supreme Court’s Decision

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court disagreed with Viking River’s interpretation of PAGA standing.  The California Supreme Court held that, so long as an employee alleges they are aggrieved by a violation, they maintain standing under the PAGA.  Thus, even after individual PAGA claims are compelled the arbitration, the plaintiff retains standing to pursue non-individual PAGA claims in court.

As to logistics, the Supreme Court clarified several things.  First, even though individual PAGA claims may be pending in arbitration and non-individual PAGA claims pending in court, the claims all remain one action, and the court action may be stayed pending completion of arbitration.  Second, if the plaintiff loses in arbitration, at that juncture, the plaintiff no longer has standing to maintain non-individual PAGA claims.  Third, if the plaintiff prevails in arbitration or settles their individual claims, they continue to possess standing to return to court to pursue non-individual PAGA claims on behalf of others.

Implications for Employers

In the wake of Adolph, the stakes for employers in individual PAGA arbitrations are high.  Employers facing PAGA claims should conduct an early assessment of the plaintiff’s individual claims and if unmeritorious aggressively defend the matter because a win in arbitration will extinguish the case in court as well.  We also anticipate that PAGA plaintiffs may begin alleging their aggrieved employee status, yet disclaiming any individual relief, in order to bypass arbitration altogether.  It remains to be seen if that pleading strategy will be condoned by California courts.

U.S. Supreme Court Orders Automatic Stays Of District Court Proceedings When Parties Appeal Denials Of Motions To Compel Arbitration

By Eden E. Anderson, Rebecca S. Bjork, and Gerald L. Maatman, Jr.

Duane Morris Takeaways: On June 23, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling that is welcome news to parties seeking to enforce arbitration agreements.  In Coinbase, Inc. v. Bielski, No. 22-105 (U.S. June 23, 2023), the Supreme Court decided that district courts must stay all proceedings after denying a motion to compel arbitration once the moving party appeals the denial.  Such appeals are allowed on an interlocutory basis under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), but the FAA is silent as to a stay pending appeal.  This ruling is significant because parties seeking to resolve claims in arbitration will no longer be required to litigate whether the district court should stay its consideration of the case until their appeal is decided.  They also will be spared proceeding with discovery and motion practice in the district court while their appeal of the denial of arbitration is pending.  As the majority explained in its opinion, this will further the purposes of arbitration (efficiency, less expense, and less intrusive discovery), save scarce judicial resources, and reduce pressure on defendants to settle.

Case Background

Abraham Bielski brought a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Coinbase, Inc., a company that operates an online platform where users buy and sell cryptocurrencies as well as government-issued currencies.  Slip Op. at 1.  Coinbase’s User Agreement contained a provision requiring binding arbitration of any disputes arising from use of the platform. Id. As a result, Coinbase moved to compel arbitration, but the district court denied its motion.  Id. at 1-2.  Coinbase filed an appeal to the Ninth Circuit under 9 U.S.C. § 16(a), the FAA’s provision that allows interlocutory appeals of denials of such motions.  Id. at 2.  At the same time – as is customary – Coinbase moved the district court to stay proceedings pending the Ninth Circuit’s decision on the arbitrability of the dispute between itself and Bielski.  Id.  The district court denied the motion, so Coinbase had to expend even more resources asking the Ninth Circuit to order a stay of the district court’s proceedings.  That motion, too, was denied, based on Ninth Circuit precedent holding that a denial of a motion to compel arbitration does not automatically stay proceedings.  Id. (citing Britton v. Co-op Banking Group., 916 F.2d 1045, 1412 (9th Cir. 1990).  The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a split between the circuit courts on the issue, citing Bradford-Scott Data Corp. v. Physician Computer Network, Inc., 128 F.3d 504, 506 (7th Cir. 1997), among other circuit court decisions contrary to the Ninth Circuit’s rule.

The Supreme Court’s Decision

Justice Kavanaugh authored the majority opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Barrett.  The question presented was “whether the district court must stay its pre-trial and trial proceedings while the interlocutory appeal is ongoing.”  Slip Op. at 1.  In explaining its answer, which is “yes,” the majority first pointed to the section of the FAA that allows interlocutory appeals where motions to compel arbitration are denied by federal district courts, noting that it is “a rare statutory exception to the usual rule” precluding appeals before final judgment.  Id. at 1, 3.  The Congress did not include any language in § 16(a) of the FAA relating to stays during the interlocutory appeal process.  However, the majority placed the enactment of that section within “a clear background principle prescribed by this Court’s precedents” – namely, that an appeal “divests the district court of its control over those aspects of the case involved in the appeal.”  Id. (citing Griggs v. Provident Consumer Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982).  Indeed, Justice Kavanaugh traced that principle all the way back to a Supreme Court decision issued in 1883 entitled Hovey v. McDonald, 109 U.S. 150, 157 (1883).

The majority bluntly stated that “[t]he Griggs principle resolves this case.”  Id. at 3.  Relying on “common practice” and common sense, they note that leading treatises on litigation in federal courts consider issuing stays pending interlocutory appeals of denials of arbitration to be “the sounder approach” and desirable.  Id. at 4-5.  The Supreme Court reasoned that it makes sense that “absent an automatic stay of district court proceedings, Congress’s decision in § 16(a) to afford a right to an interlocutory appeal would be largely nullified.”  Id. at 5.

Beyond this reasoning, the majority also noted the purposes of arbitration and explained that automatic stays will preserve those objectives of efficiency, reduced litigation cost, and reduced discovery burdens on the parties.  Id. at 6.  Defendants in class actions in particular are subject to immense pressure to settle cases where arbitration motions are denied, presenting a “potential for coercion . . . where the possibility of colossal liability can lead to what [are] called ‘blackmail settlements.’” Id. at 6.

The majority also noted that allowing a case to proceed simultaneously in district court and the court of appeals leads to a distinct possibility that scarce judicial resources will be wasted if, for example, the parties litigate a dispute in the district court, only for the court of appeals to reverse and order that very same dispute to binding arbitration.  Id.

Implications for Employers

As any employer knows who has been sued by a named plaintiff in a class action despite that plaintiff having signed an arbitration agreement with a class action waiver, the Supreme Court’s decision in Coinbase is a very welcome development.  With potentially thousands of absent class members’ claims at issue, a district court’s denial of an employer’s motion to enforce its arbitration agreement can be an earth-shattering development.  In addition, employers with nationwide operations now have a single, uniform rule that applies to this situation, bringing certainty to the law and one common rule in each and every circuit court.  The Supreme Court’s decision is, therefore, a highly significant development in the law regarding arbitration.

New Jersey Determines That Class Action Waiver Untethered To An Arbitration Agreement Is Unenforceable

By Eden Anderson and Rebecca Bjork

Duane Morris Takeaway: In Pace, et al. v. Hamilton Cove, Case No. A-0674-22 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. May 18, 2023), the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, found a class action waiver unenforceable without an explicit arbitration clause in a lease agreement.  The ruling should be a required read for businesses trying to implement an enforceable class action waiver, as it demonstrates why it is necessary to include such a provision in a contract that includes an arbitration clause.

Case Background

Two tenants of a residential apartment complex filed a putative class action against their landlord alleging claims of common law fraud and for violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA).  The tenants alleged that the landlord made false promises concerning the amount of security that would be provided at the complex, which was located in a high crime area. The advertisements for the complex promised that it would have “elevated, 24/7 security.” Id. at 3. Specifically, during a tour of the apartment complex, the plaintiffs were assured that there would be in person security stationed near building entrances day and night.

The plaintiffs contended that despite the promises made by the defendants, the sole security was a front desk greeter who were present only during regular business hours and was often not stationed at the desk at all.  The plaintiffs asserted that they relied upon the representations made by the defendant when selecting and moving into the apartment complex, that defendants engaged in an unconscionable business practice in violation of the CFA, and that tenants overpaid for the apartments because they did not receive the full value promised, constituting an ascertainable loss. Id. The tenants’ lease included a class action waiver, but no mandatory arbitration clause.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, to strike the class allegations. The defendants stated that the leases were not contracts of adhesion and that the class action waivers included in the lease agreements were valid and enforceable. The plaintiffs argued the leases were contracts of adhesion, the class action waivers were unconscionable, and the case law supporting the enforceability of class action waivers was inapplicable to this case.

The trial court denied the defendants’ motion. On the defendants’ appeal, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

The Court’s Ruling

The Appellate Division acknowledged state and federal precedent upholding the enforceability of class action waivers in arbitration agreements, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011).  The Appellate Division stated that an arbitration agreement necessarily involves a waiver of a party’s right to have claims litigated in court, and here, in contrast, there was no agreement to arbitrate contractual disputes. The Appellate Division held, however, that the policies favoring arbitration and encouraging enforcement of arbitration agreements, as expressed in the Federal Arbitration Act and the New Jersey Arbitration Act, are irrelevant when an arbitration agreement is not at issue.

Instead, the Appellate Division determined that New Jersey’s policy favoring class actions applied, and that “there is no societal interest in enforcing a class action waiver in a contract that does not contain a mandatory arbitration provision.” Id. at 15.  Accordingly, the Appellate Division determined that the plaintiffs were not bound to arbitration and were free to litigate their claims in court.

Implications Of The Decision

Any business trying to implement an enforceable class action waiver should include such a provision in a contract that includes an arbitration clause. Had the landlord here included an arbitration clause in its lease, the outcome of the case may have been very different and class litigation avoided.

Congress To Consider Proposed FAA Amendment To Preclude Forced Arbitration Of Race Discrimination Claims

By Eden Anderson and Rebecca Bjork

Duane Morris Takeaways: The scope of claims that can permissibly be arbitrated under the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) may narrow once again.  Last year saw the enactment of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which amended the FAA to preclude a pre-dispute agreement to arbitrate claims involving allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault.  With that amendment, plaintiffs who file claims — either individual claims or putative class action claims — that relate to a sexual harassment or sexual assault dispute may now, at their option, pursue such claims in court and cannot be compelled to submit those claims to arbitration. Now Congress may soon consider that sort on ban for claims involving race discrimination.

Proposed Legislation

Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Hank Johnson announced plans this week to introduce a bill — the Ending Forced Arbitration of Race Discrimination Act of 2023 — to further amend the FAA to preclude arbitration of race discrimination claims.  While the parameters of the proposed bill are as yet unclear, presumptively it will seek to preclude arbitration of both individual and class action race discrimination claims, and possibly more.

The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act was initially drafted to cover all claims alleging “sex discrimination disputes,” but was then narrowed to only apply to sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.  If Congress was not willing to ban arbitration of sex discrimination claims, it may not be willing to ban arbitration of race discrimination claims.

Implications For Employers

As states and Congress continue to take steps to limit the use of arbitration, it remains critical for businesses and employers to regularly review their arbitration agreements to ensure compliance with an often-changing landscape of laws.

As the FAA approaches its 100-year anniversary, its impact will be less profound if Congress continues to enact claim-specific carve outs.

DMCAR Trend #3 – The Arbitration Defense Suffered Setbacks In 2022

By Gerald L. Maatman, Jr. and Jennifer A. Riley

Duane Morris Takeaway: Of all defenses, a defendant’s ability to enforce an arbitration agreement containing a class or collective action waiver may have had the single greatest impact in terms of shifting the pendulum of class action litigation. With its decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, et al., 138 S. Ct. 1612 (2018), the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the last hurdle to widespread adoption of such agreements. In response, more companies of all types and sizes updated their onboarding materials, terms of use, and other types of agreements to require that any disputes be resolved in arbitration on an individual basis. To date, companies have enjoyed a high rate of success enforcing those agreements and using them to thwart class actions out of the gate.

Statistically, corporate defendants fared well in asserting the defense. Across various areas of class action litigation, the defense won approximately 68% of motions to compel arbitration (roughly 69 motions granted in 102 cases).

By almost any measure, the arbitration defense had a tumultuous year in 2022. In the courts, chinks in the armor of the defense began to grow. While the U.S. Supreme Court shut down state efforts to evade arbitration of wage and hour claims, as discussed above, it limited application of the FAA to workers who participate in interstate transportation. Perhaps more significantly, on the legislative front, Congress significantly limited the availability of arbitration for cases alleging sexual harassment or sexual assault when it passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act. President Biden signed the Act into law on March 3, 2022.

The Act amends the FAA and provides a plaintiff the discretion to enforce pre-dispute arbitration provisions and class and collective action waivers in cases where he or she alleges “conduct constituting a sexual harassment dispute or a sexual assault dispute” or is “the named representative of a class or in a collective action alleging such conduct.” In other words, whereas the Act does not render such agreements invalid, it allows the party bringing sexual assault or sexual harassment claims to elect to enforce them or avoid them. The Act does not impact agreements entered into after a dispute arises.

The plaintiffs’ bar often alleges other claims along with claims for sexual assault or sexual harassment. Whereas the Act refers to a “case,” it remains to be seen whether courts will attempt to limit a plaintiff’s option to avoid pre-dispute arbitration to sexual assault or sexual harassment claims or will extend such option to all claims at issue in a case. The Act provides that “no pre-dispute arbitration agreement or pre-dispute joint-action waiver shall be valid or enforceable with respect to a case which is filed under Federal, Tribal, or State law and relates to the sexual assault dispute or the sexual harassment dispute.” To date, courts have not issued significant decisions interpreting such language.

Given the impact of the arbitration defense, in 2023, companies may face additional hurdles, on the judicial or the legislative front, as the plaintiffs’ bar continues to look for workarounds. In particular, we expect to see litigation over whether the Act’s use of the word “case” renders the statute applicable to all claims in the case, including claims other than sexual harassment and sexual assault and whether the statute, therefore, will allow for a broader shield to the arbitration defense.

When Contract Interpretation Principles Matter:  Court Provides A Roadmap For Avoiding Ambiguous And Contradictory Interpretations Of Arbitration Clauses

By Eden E. Anderson and Rebecca Bjork

Duane Morris Takeaway:  It is a truism that arbitration is a matter of consent, and consent is embodied in contract law principles.  In a recent ruling entitled Querette v. Chromalloy Gas Turbine, LLC, Judge Philp Halpern of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York brought those abstract principles into the light of day while forging an interpretation of a collective bargaining agreement containing an arbitration clause and harmonizing seemingly contradictory clauses. In finding in favor of a defendant seeking to arbitrate a dispute with its employees, the Court provided a roadmap of sort that is well worth a read for corporate counsel.


Requiring arbitration of workplace disputes unquestionably has become one of the most important legal tools for employers over the past several years.  This is in large part due to developments in the law that encourage courts to enforce arbitration clauses that waive the right of employees to bring class actions.  Because class action lawsuits are inevitably costly to defend and can out stretch over several years, employers – especially those with large headcounts – have come to rely on arbitration agreements containing class waivers to rein in litigation expenses.


For this reason, the careful drafting of arbitration agreements is very important.  Agreements must be drafted in a way that avoids ambiguity and conflicting clauses.  If an agreement is ambiguous, a court is more likely to construe it against the drafter, which often means denying motions to compel arbitration and allowing class claims to proceed in court.  And if an agreement contains conflicting or contradictory clauses it is easier for a party to argue that it cannot be enforced.  In such a case, the court must work to try and harmonize the conflicting clauses.  Contract law assumes each clause was included for a reason, so courts attempt to avoid interpretations that would render a clause meaningless.

The Ruling In Querette v. Chromalloy Gas Turbine, LLC

These basic principles of contract interpretation played out in interesting ways in a recent case decided by District Court Judge Philip M. Halpern of the Southern District of New York.  In Querette v. Chromalloy Gas Turbine, LLC,  No. 22 Civ. 00356 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 10, 2023), the Court was asked to compel arbitration of a class action filed under New York Labor Law §191(1)(a) that requires employers to pay their employees on a weekly basis.  Relying on contract law principles, the Court sided with the defendant and ordered the plaintiff’s claim to be arbitrated.

The agreement at issue was the product of collective bargaining.  Article 14 of the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) sets forth a multi-step grievance procedure that members of the union who have a dispute with the employer must follow.  That process culminates in arbitration before the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) to resolve the dispute. Id. at 2.

Section 14.F. of the CBA states that “Any and all grievances and all issues arising from and relating thereto, including the interpretation and application of this section shall be governed by, construed in accordance with and processed pursuant to AAA’s then existing rules governing labor disputes, which rules are fully incorporated herein.” Id.  Section 14.G. of the CBA then provides that the grievance process is the sole mechanism for resolving disputes between employees and the employer, with two exceptions.  That section states, in relevant part, “Except for resort to the agencies and/or courts charged with the enforcement of the laws enumerated in Article I herein, and except with further resort to the National Labor Relations Board, it is the intention of the parties that employees will look exclusively to this Agreement for the resolution of all disputes under this Agreement.”  Id. at 2-3. Article I identifies several federal and state discrimination and family leave laws, but does not include state or federal wage and hour laws.

Section 14.I contains the second carve-out, ensuring a “Right of Representation and/or Counsel for Parties Only,” which preserves the right of union members to be “individually represented by private counsel as to any alleged right, only that any such alleged right must be pursued in a forum other than under this Article.”  Id. at 3.  In other words, Section 14.I appears on its face to carve out from the arbitration requirement any case brought by an employee who has retained private counsel.  Reading the clause that way contradicts the mandate that all disputes between an employee and the employer must be subject to the grievance process spelled out in the CBA.

The plaintiffs contended that Section 14.I applied to their claim because they had retained private counsel to pursue their class action wage claim, so it could not be compelled to arbitration under the express and unequivocal language in that clause.  The Court did not agree, and reached its conclusion by way of the very basic principles of contract interpretation explained above; reading a contract in a way that avoids ambiguity and conflicting clauses.

Basis Of The Court’s Opinion

First, the Court was required to determine whether it or an AAA arbitrator had the authority to determine if the dispute was arbitrable in the first place.  The AAA rules provide that arbitrability is for an arbitrator to decide.  However, the Court noted correctly that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that courts must not assume that the parties agreed to assign arbitrability to an arbitrator unless there is “clear and unmistakable evidence” of the parties’ intent to delegate that issue to an arbitrator.  The court applied Second Circuit case law precedent holding that incorporation of the AAA rules alone does not per se show an intent to delegate arbitrability; rather “context matters.”  Id. at 6.  The context that mattered to Judge Halpern was the fact that the CBA was not so broad as to claim to cover each and every dispute between an employee and the defendant.  He reasoned that the carve out for discrimination and family leave claims, along with the private counsel carve out itself, created ambiguity as to the parties’ intent to delegate arbitrability decisions to an arbitrator.  And ambiguity means there is not clear and unmistakable evidence of the intent to delegate.  Thus, the Court concluded it must decide arbitrability.

Second, the Court found that the private counsel carve-out did not exempt the plaintiff’s claims from the CBA’s arbitration requirement.  Id. at 8.  Applying the rule that contract interpretation must not render clauses contradictory to one another, the Court read the agreement in a way that gave meaning to both the requirement to arbitrate disputes and the private counsel carve out.  The Judge opined that if the plaintiffs could hire private counsel as a way to evade the CBA’s arbitration requirement in every type of case, not just the discrimination and family leave act claims enumerated in Article I of the CBA, that would render the grievance procedure culminating in arbitration meaningless.

Because the CBA was the product of extensive and careful negotiation, the Court concluded that could not be the intent of the parties.  Limiting the private counsel carve out to only discrimination and family leave cases allowed both clauses to have meaning.  Id. at 8-9.  In this way, the Court harmonized seemingly contradictory clauses in the CBA, and ordered the plaintiff’s wage law claim to arbitration.

Implications For Employers

It is not clear from the decision whether the arbitration itself can proceed on a class-wide basis, as there is no discussion of whether any class waiver exists in the CBA. Nonetheless, the Court’s order represents a master class in how to properly apply contract interpretation principles and enforce all clauses in arbitration agreements.

Illinois District Court Rejects “Trio” Of BIPA Defenses in Denying Motion to Dismiss

By: Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Tyler Z. Zmick

Duane Morris Takeaways: In Trio v. Turing Video, Inc., No. 21-CV-4409, 2022 WL 4466050 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 26, 2022), the Court issued yet another plaintiff-friendly decision under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”), putting businesses on notice that the statute can apply to technology used to screen individuals for purposes of preventing the spread of COVID-19.  The Court denied the three arguments raised in the Defendant’s motion to dismiss, and held that: (1) personal jurisdiction existed because the Defendant sent “biometric” devices to multiple Illinois-based customers; (2) the Plaintiff’s claims were not preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act; and (3) Plaintiff adequately alleged claims under BIPA. The ruling in Trio ought to be required reading for corporate counsel dealing with privacy class action litigation.


Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Turing Video, Inc. sold “products integrated with artificial intelligence,” including the Turing Shield, a “kiosk that allows Turing’s customers to screen their employees for COVID-19.”  See Mem. Op. & Order at 2.  According to Plaintiff, the Turing Shield works by screening a user’s temperature through the device’s camera, thereby using its “artificial intelligence algorithm” to recognize the user based on his or her facial geometry, and detecting whether the user is wearing a protective mask.  Plaintiff also alleged that data collected through the Turing Shield was transmitted to third parties who host that data.

Plaintiff previously worked in Illinois for New Albertson’s, Inc. d/b/a Jewel-Osco, where she used the Turing Shield at the start of each workday as part of the store’s COVID-19 screening process.  Based on her use of the device, Plaintiff claimed that Turing violated the BIPA by: (i) failing to inform her that the Turing Shield would collect her biometric data, and (ii) disseminating her biometric data to third parties without her consent.

Turing moved to dismiss on three grounds, including: (1) that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction; (2) Plaintiff’s claims were preempted by the Labor Management Relations Act; and (3) Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The Court’s Decision

The Court denied Turing’s motion to dismiss on all three grounds.

Personal Jurisdiction

Turing argued that the Court lacked specific personal jurisdiction because Turing was a non-forum (i.e., California) resident that sold the devices used by Plaintiff to a non-party, Jewel-Osco (also a non-forum resident), and Jewel-Osco brought the devices into Illinois without Turing’s involvement.

The Court held that the evidence – which showed Turing had over 30 Illinois-based customers and had shipped Turing Shields into Illinois – established that Turing had the requisite minimum contacts with Illinois to establish personal jurisdiction.

Labor Management Relations Act Preemption

The Court next addressed Turing’s argument that Plaintiff’s claims were preempted by Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (the “LMRA”), which establishes federal jurisdiction over “suits for violations of contracts between an employer and a labor organization representing employees in an industry affecting commerce.”  Courts typically interpret Section 301 as preempting state law claims that are “substantially dependent on analysis of a collective-bargaining agreement.”  Id. at 18.

Here, Plaintiff was represented by a union and subject to a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) while employed at Jewel-Osco.  Based on those facts, Turing claimed that resolving Plaintiff’s BIPA claims for alleged privacy invasions sustained through her work required the Court to interpret the CBA.  The Court disagreed. It held that Plaintiff’s claims were not preempted because the Court could resolve the claims without interpreting the CBA.

The Court recognized that the Seventh Circuit has held that federal law preempts BIPA claims brought by certain union-represented employees against their employers.  See Miller v. Southwest Airlines Co., 926 F.3d 898, 903 (7th Cir. 2019); Fernandez v. Kerry, Inc., 14 F.4th 644, 646-47 (7th Cir. 2021).  The Court distinguished those cases because Turing was not a party to the CBA, and “Turing’s obligations under BIPA stand wholly independent of whether Plaintiff’s union may have consented to Jewel-Osco . . . collecting and disseminating her biometric data.  In other words, resolution of the state law BIPA claims would not require this Court to interpret any [CBA], and instead depend upon the entirely unrelated question of whether Turing provided Plaintiff with the necessary disclosures and obtained from her the required written release before it collected and disseminated her biometric information.”  Mem. Op. & Order at 20-21.

Extraterritoriality & PREP Act Immunity

Finally, the Court rejected Turing’s arguments that: (i) Plaintiff failed to allege that Turing’s relevant conduct occurred in Illinois, and (ii) the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (the “PREP Act”) immunized Turing from BIPA liability.  Regarding extraterritoriality, the Court held that Plaintiff sufficiently alleged that Turing’s conduct occurred “primarily and substantially” in Illinois, thereby satisfying the “extraterritoriality doctrine.”  Id. at 25. Regarding PREP Act immunity, the Court noted that the PREP Act provides immunity from liability relating to the “use of a covered countermeasure” upon the declaration of a public health emergency by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Court held that PREP Act immunity did not apply because the Food and Drug Administration had not approved the Turing Shield, meaning the device did not satisfy the definition of a “covered countermeasure.” Id. at 28.


Trio can be added to the list of recent plaintiff-friendly BIPA decisions, as it reinforces the growing consensus that multiple private entities can be subject to liability under the statute for what may seem like a single “violation.”

The case also raises a potential hurdle to asserting jurisdictional defenses to BIPA claims based on its holding that personal jurisdiction can exist even where the defendant does not send into Illinois the specific device used to collect a plaintiff’s “biometric” data.  Other courts, however, appear more willing to dismiss BIPA claims on personal jurisdiction grounds.  See, e.g., Gutierrez v. Wemagine.AI LLP, Case No. 21-CV-5702, ECF No. 32, Mem. Op. & Order at 1 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 7, 2022) (available here) (dismissing BIPA case for lack of personal jurisdiction despite plaintiffs’ allegation that defendant’s app “derives substantial revenue from nearly 5,000 Illinois-based users”).


California Dreaming For Employers:  U.S. Supreme Court Orders California State Court of Appeal To Reconsider Denial Of Arbitration In PAGA Case

By: Gerald L. Maatman, Jr., Jennifer A. Riley, and Rebecca S. Bjork 

Duane Morris Takeaways: On October 3, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari, reversed, and remanded a case seeking review of a motion to compel arbitration in a California Private Attorney General Act (“PAGA”) labor law case entitled Dolgen California, LLC v. Galarsa, No. 21-1444 (U.S. Order List, Oct. 3, 2022).  Granting Dollar General’s specific request, the Supreme Court ordered the California Court of Appeal to reconsider its decision affirming a trial court’s denial of the company’s motion to compel arbitration.  That court held that the waiver of representative actions in the plaintiff’s arbitration agreement was unenforceable under California law.  This is only one of several cases pending in California courts involving arbitration agreements that waive an employee’s right to bring a representative action under the PAGA that are being revisited in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v Moriana (No. 20-1573, June 15, 2022).  As a result, employers will soon have a better understanding of how PAGA representative action waivers will be interpreted in California within the now-controlling framework of the Federal Arbitration Act.

The Holding In Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana

Earlier this year, on June 15, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana. Companies with California-based workforces watched the case closely because it represented an opportunity to clarify the extent to which a court-made rule established by the California Supreme Court back in 2014 could co-exist with the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).  The FAA has long been found to favor the enforcement of arbitration agreements, including waivers of class and other representative claims.  But the California Supreme Court’s decision made it impossible for class waivers to be enforceable under state law as a result of its decision in Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC, 59 Cal. 4th 348, 387-88 (2014) (holding that a “PAGA claim lies outside the [FAA]’s coverage because it is not a dispute between an employer and an employee arising out of their contractual relationship,” but is instead “a dispute between an employer and the state”).

In a complex and lengthy opinion, the Supreme Court held in Viking River that “the FAA preempts the rule of Iskanian insofar as it precludes division of PAGA actions into individual and non-individual claims through an agreement to arbitrate.”  (Slip Op. at 20.)  “This prohibition on contractual division of PAGA actions into constituent claims unduly circumscribes the freedom of parties to determine ‘the issues subject to arbitration’ and ‘the rules by which they will arbitrate,’ and does so in a way that violates the fundamental principle that ‘arbitration is a matter of consent[.]’”  (Id. at 18 (citations omitted).)  In short, representative PAGA claims can now be subject to waiver in an arbitration agreement because “state law cannot condition the enforceability of an arbitration agreement on the availability of a procedural mechanism that would permit a party to expand the scope of the arbitration by introducing claims that the parties did not jointly agree to arbitrate.”  (Id.)

Dollar General’s Petition For Certiorari

Dollar General filed a petition for certiorari while Viking River was pending, expressly asking the Supreme Court to hold the petition pending a decision in that case.  It requested that once Viking River was decided, the Supreme Court should at that time grant Dollar General’s petition, vacate the California Court of Appeal decision below, and remand the case to that court for reconsideration in light of Viking River (known to Supreme Court practitioners as a “GVR” order). The facts in the Dollar General case are strikingly similar to those at issue in Viking River, and the company’s petition described the question presented as “Does the FAA require enforcement of a bilateral arbitration agreement providing that an employee cannot assert representative claims, including under PAGA?”

The U.S. Supreme Court’s GVR Order

On October 3, 2022, the Supreme Court did what Dollar General expressly asked it to do.  (See Order List, Oct. 3, 2022.)

As is typical with GVR orders, there is no explanation of the reasoning behind the order, except that the California Court of Appeal is instructed to apply the reasoning of Viking River on remand.  The California Court of Appeal now will soon reconsider its affirmation of the trial court’s denial of Dollar General’s motion to compel the plaintiff’s claim to an individual, non-representative arbitration proceeding.

Implications For Employers

Employers have long known that if they have operations in California, special attention must be paid to state law provisions that impose restrictions on employment practices unlike those in any other state.  Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the FAA preempts the court-made rule of Iskanian that precluded splitting representative PAGA claims from individual claims, it is likely that California courts will modify their enforcement of representative action waivers in arbitration agreements.  But because this is California, wary employers would be wise to stay tuned for further developments in this rapidly changing area of the law.


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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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