Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hill v. Wackenhut Services International

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 18, 2013

ADAM HILL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
WACKENHUT SERVICES INTERNATIONAL, et al., Defendants

Page 6

For ADAM HILL, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, TODD ASHTON HARVILLE, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, DAVID BOND, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, BRANDON ALBERS, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, CARL TURNER, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, JASON GARBER, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, JAMES MCDONALD, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, JARROD J. RICCIO, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, JON P. DUMMERMUTH, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, MICHAEL WHITE, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, RODNEY PIERCE, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, RYAN D. WHEELER, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, SAMUEL J. MATYCHAK, III, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, WES COOK, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, SHANE L. ZIMMERMAN, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, ERICH V. EBERT, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, BRIAN KANIS, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, OSCAR RENE MENDIOLA, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, JASON FASEL, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, BLAKE M. SCOTT, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, ADAM HORSKY, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, DAVID LLOYD JOBES, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, STEVE RIVERA, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, TIMOTHY J. FOLEY, JR., Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, TYLER GOODERE, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, TIMOTHY N. DRALLE, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, DAVID TILBURY, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, MICHAEL R. BROWNING, Individually and on behalf of similarly situated persons, Plaintiffs: Michael J. Trevelline, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL TREVELLINE, Washington, DC; Scott J. Bloch, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF SCOTT J. BLOCH, PA, Washington, DC.

For WACKENHUT SERVICES INTERNATIONAL, also known as WACKENHUT SERVICES, INC., also known as WACKENHUT SERVICES, LLC, Defendant: Henry Morris, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, ARENT FOX, LLP, Washington, DC.

For KELLOG-BROWN & ROOT, LLC, also known as KELLOG-BROWN & ROOT INTERNATIONAL, doing business as KBR TECHNICAL SERVICES, doing business as KBR, INC., doing business as KELLOG BROWN & ROOT, also known as S. DE R.L., also known as OVERSEAS ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, doing business as SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL CORP, HALLIBURTON CORP., Defendants: Craig D. Margolis, LEAD ATTORNEY, Crystal N. Y'barbo, Jason A Levine, Tirzah S. Lollar, VINSON & ELKINS, L.L.P., Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 7

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs filed this action against their employer, Wackenhut Services LLC, and its affiliates, claiming that Defendants owed them unpaid compensation for their work on American military bases overseas. In response, the Wackenhut Defendants filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Litigation, arguing that Plaintiffs were obligated to arbitrate these claims under the mandatory-arbitration provision in their employment agreements. This Court granted that Motion and sent the case to arbitration, where the arbitrator issued a Partial Final Award determining, as a threshold matter, that Plaintiffs could proceed in the arbitration as a class rather than on an individual basis. Defendants have now filed a Motion to Vacate that Award on the ground that it exceeded the arbitrator's contractually delegated authority. The Court disagrees and will deny the Motion.

I. Background

In an ironic twist, Defendants' Motion to Vacate returns this dispute from private arbitration back to federal court just one year after this Court granted their prior motion to stay the litigation and compel Plaintiffs to arbitrate. See Hill v. Wackenhut Servs. Int'l (Hill I), 865 F.Supp.2d 84 (D.D.C. 2012). Because the Partial Final Award at issue capably lays out the history of the case, the Court will rely on its recitation to review the relevant facts below.

In 2006, current and former Wackenhut employees initiated a class arbitration against Wackenhut and its affiliates pursuant to the arbitration provision in their employment agreements, claiming that Defendants owed them unpaid compensation for their services as firefighters on American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. See Mot., Exh. 1 (Partial Final Award) at 1, 5. In those proceedings, Defendants initially argued that the language of the arbitration provision foreclosed class arbitration. See id. at 1. When the arbitrator issued a partial final award holding that the arbitration provision did provide for class arbitration, however, Defendants did not challenge that determination. See id.

After arbitrating the case for over two years, Defendants entered into a class settlement agreement with the claimants. See id. at 6. The arbitrator conditionally certified a class for settlement purposes on December 15, 2009, after which notice of

Page 8

the settlement was issued to approximately 2,087 class members. See id. The settlement was finalized on August 3, 2010. See id. In all, 30 class members opted out of the settlement, 1,337 members submitted claims forms in exchange for settlement payments, and the remaining 720 did neither. See id. On August 19, 2010, class counsel submitted an application for confirmation of the class award to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, to which Defendants consented. See id. That court confirmed the order on October 29, 2010. See id.

In September 2011, Plaintiffs filed this class-action lawsuit against Defendants. See id. at 1. Plaintiffs comprise members of the class from the prior case who either opted out of the settlement or neither opted out nor submitted claims forms, and their allegations against Defendants largely mimic the ones made before. See id. at 1-2. In response, Defendants filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration and Stay Litigation, noting that Plaintiffs had signed employment agreements obliging them to arbitrate all their employment-related disputes. See ECF No. 6 (Feb. 6, 2012). This Court agreed and issued an order staying the case and directing Plaintiffs to pursue their claims against Defendants in arbitration. See Hill I, 865 F.Supp.2d at 99.

The parties marched off to arbitration with JAMS, a private alternative-dispute-resolution provider, and submitted briefs to the appointed arbitrator. See Partial Final Award at 2. In their submission, Defendants argued, inter alia, that the arbitrator should dismiss Plaintiffs' class claims because the arbitration clause in their employment agreements did not affirmatively permit class arbitration, as required by the Supreme Court's decision in Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. Animal Feeds Int'l Corp., 559 U.S. 662, 130 S.Ct. 1758, 176 L.Ed.2d 605 (2010). See Mot., Exh. 7 (JAMS Motion for Partial Dismissal) at 8-11. In their opposition brief, Plaintiffs appeared to concede that under prevailing law the language of the arbitration clause did not support class arbitration, but they nevertheless argued that the doctrines of collateral estoppel, equitable estoppel, and judicial estoppel precluded Defendants from refusing to permit class arbitration, since they had accepted the procedure in the prior arbitration proceedings. See Mot., Exh. 8 (JAMS Opposition) at 14-23. Defendants filed a reply brief asserting that those estoppel rules did not bar them from challenging Plaintiffs' class claims in these circumstances, but Defendants did not in principle contest the arbitrator's authority to apply estoppel doctrines to resolve the dispute. See Opp., Exh. B (JAMS Reply).

On April 23, 2013, the arbitrator issued a Partial Final Award Concerning Class Arbitrability pursuant to Rule 2 of the JAMS Class Action Procedures, which requires JAMS arbitrators to " determine as a threshold matter whether the arbitration can proceed on behalf of or against a class" and to " set forth his or her determination ... in a partial final award subject to immediate court review." JAMS Class Action Procedures Rule 2 (http://www.jamsadr.com/rules-class-action-procedures/ (last visited September 17, 2013)). The arbitrator preliminarily observed that the parties were apparently in agreement that the arbitration clause did not provide for class arbitration, and he similarly concluded that, construing the clause in light of Stolt-Nielsen, " class arbitration is not permitted by the language of that clause." Partial Final Award at 4.

But that finding did not decide the case because the arbitrator also found that Defendants were estopped from denying that the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.