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Media Alerts - Huffman v. The Hilltop Companies, LLC - Sixth Circuit
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April 17, 2014
  Huffman v. The Hilltop Companies, LLC - Sixth Circuit
Headline: The presumption in favor of arbitration applies even after a contract expires, even if the contract's survival clause did not mention the arbitration clause.

Area of Law: Contract Law; Arbitration

Issue Presented: Does the strong federal presumption in favor of arbitration apply after a contract expires when the arbitration clause is not specifically listed in the survival clause?

Brief Summary: The plaintiffs each signed an employment agreement with the defendant. The agreement contained an arbitration clause, but the arbitration clause was not listed in the survival clause. After the plaintiffs' employment ended, they sued for alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act. The defendant argued that the claim had to be submitted to arbitration. The Sixth Circuit held that the arbitration clause did not expire with the contract, even though it was not listed in the survival clause.

Significance: Despite the doctrine of expressio unius, arbitration clauses can survive after a contract expires even if they are not listed in the contract's survival clause.

Extended Summary: Defendant hired the plaintiffs in 2011 to review the files of mortgage loans originated by PNC Bank. The plaintiffs each signed an employment agreement that contained an arbitration clause. The clause stated that all claims "arising out of or related to" the agreement would be settled by arbitration. The agreements also contained a survival clause, which listed provisions of the agreement that would remain in effect after its expiration. The survival clause did not mention the arbitration clause.

After their employment agreements with the defendant expired, the plaintiffs sued, alleging that the defendant had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Ohio Minimum Fair Wage Standards Act. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration, arguing that the arbitration clause applied after the agreement's expiration even though the survival clause did not list it. The district court found for the plaintiffs. It relied on the doctrine of expressio unius est exclusio alterius, which states that when a contract contains a detailed list of particulars, courts should presume that items not included in that list were intentionally omitted. The district court reasoned that if certain provisions were included in the survival clause, the provisions not included were not meant to apply post-expiration. The defendant appealed.

The Sixth Circuit held that the doctrine of expressio unius, by itself, was not enough to rebut the strong presumption in favor of arbitration. It reasoned that the list of provisions in the survival clause was not meant to be exhaustive because it did not contain other clauses that would necessarily survive expiration, including a 12-month noncompetition clause and integration and severability clauses. Reading the employment agreement as a whole, the Sixth Circuit concluded that the arbitration clause was meant to survive the agreement, even though it was not mentioned in the survival clause. Thus, the Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that the district court should have dismissed the case and compelled arbitration.

Link to Full Opinion: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/op...s.pdf/14a0056p-06.pdf

Panel: Gilman, Cook, McKeague

Argument: March 19, 2014

Date of Issued Opinion: March 27, 2014

Docket Number: 13-3938

Decided: March 27, 2014

Counsel: ARGUED: Matthew C. Blickensderfer, FROST BROWN TODD LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant. Adam W. Hansen, NICHOLS KASTER, LLP, San Francisco, California, for Appellees. ON BRIEF: Matthew C. Blickensderfer, Eugene Droder III, FROST BROWN TODD LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellant. Adam W. Hansen, NICHOLS KASTER, LLP, San Francisco, California, Rachhana T. Srey, NICHOLS KASTER, PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Circuit Judge McKeague

Case Alert Author: Sarah Fuhrman

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Prof. Barbara Kalinowski

Edited: 04/17/2014 at 04:00 PM by Mark Cooney

    Posted By: Mark Cooney @ 04/17/2014 03:51 PM     6th Circuit  

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