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Thomas v. PFG Transco, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

March 25, 2018

FELTON THOMAS
v.
PFG TRANSCO, INC., PERFORMANCE FOOD GROUP, INC., NAVIGATORS LOGISTICS, INC., KENNETH PAUL LOCKHART, and PFGC, INC.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER AND OPINION

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant PFG Transco, Inc. Defendant Performance Food Group, Inc., and PFGC, Inc.'s (collectively, “PFG”) Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #7).[1] The Court, having considered the relevant pleadings, finds the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 5, 2013, Plaintiff Felton Thomas began working as a dispatcher for PFG, working out of the 500 Metro Park Drive, McKinney, Texas warehouse. According to the terms of his employment, the parties agreed to mandatory, final, and binding arbitration of disputes for on-the-job injuries pursuant to PFG's Texas Injury Benefit Plan (the “Benefit Plan”) as a non-subscriber under the Texas Workers' Compensation Statute. Plaintiff signed an acknowledgment of having agreed to mandatory arbitration of such disputes by arbitration (Dkt. #7-1, Exhibit 3). Appendix A to the Benefit Plan states:

The Employer hereby adopts a mandatory company policy requiring that the following claims or disputes must be submitted to final and binding arbitration under this Appendix: (A) any legal or equitable claim or dispute relating to enforcement or interpretation of the arbitration provisions in a Receipt, Safety Pledge and Arbitration Acknowledgement form or this Appendix; and (B) any legal or equitable claim by or with respect to an Associate for any form of physical or psychological damage, harm or death which relates to an accident, occupational disease, or cumulative trauma (including, but not limited to, claims of negligence or gross negligence or discrimination; claims for intentional acts, assault, battery, negligent hiring/training/supervision/retention, emotional distress, retaliatory discharge, or violation of any other noncriminal federal, state or other governmental common law, statute, regulation or ordinance in connection with a job-related injury, regardless of whether the common law doctrine was recognized or whether the statute, regulation or ordinance was enacted before or after the effective date of this Appendix). This includes all claims listed above that an Associate has now or in the future against an Employer, its officers, directors, owners, Associates, representatives, agents, subsidiaries, affiliates, successors, or assigns. . . .
The determination of whether a claim is covered by this Appendix shall also be subject to arbitration under this Appendix. Neither an Associate nor an Employer shall be entitled to a bench or jury trial on any claim covered by this Appendix.

(Dkt. #7-1, Exhibit 1 at p. 58).

         On December 6, 2017, PFG filed a motion to dismiss (Dkt. #7). On December 18, 2017, Plaintiff filed his response (Dkt. #8). On December 28, 2017, PFG filed a reply (Dkt. #11).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         “The Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) expresses a strong national policy favoring arbitration of disputes, and all doubts concerning the arbitrability of claims should be resolved in favor of arbitration.” Wash. Mut. Fin. Group, LLC v. Bailey, 364 F.3d 260, 263 (5th Cir. 2004). The FAA, “leaves no place for the exercise of discretion by a district court, but instead mandates that district courts shall direct the parties to proceed to arbitration on issues as to which an arbitration agreement has been signed.” Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc. v. Byrd, 470 U.S. 213, 218 (1985).

         When considering a motion to compel arbitration, the Court must address two questions. Graves v. BP America, Inc., 568 F.3d 221, 222 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. v. Gaskamp, 280 F.3d 1069, 1073 (5th Cir. 2002)). “First, whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate, and second, whether the dispute in question falls within the scope of the arbitration agreement.” Id. Concerning the first question of contract validity, the Court should apply “ordinary state-law principles that govern the formation of contracts.” Id. (citing First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944 (1995)). The second question of scope is answered “by applying the ‘federal substantive law of arbitrability . . . .'” Id. (quoting Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 626 (1985)).

         ANALYSIS

         When ruling on a motion to compel arbitration, the Court must first determine whether there is a valid agreement to arbitrate applying ordinary state-law principles that govern the formation of contracts. Graves, 568 F.3d at 222. “In applying state law, however, due regard must be given to the federal policy favoring arbitration.” Webb v. Investacorp, Inc., 89 F.3d 252, 258 (5th Cir. 1996). “In determining whether the parties agree to arbitrate a certain matter, courts apply the contract law of the particular state that governs the agreement.” Wash. Mut. Fin. Grp., LLC v. Bailey, 364 F.3d 260, 264 (5th Cir. 2004). The Court finds Texas contract law applies.[2] Under Texas law, a binding contract exists when each of the following elements are established: (1) an offer; (2) an acceptance; (3) a meeting of the minds; (4) a communication that each part consented to the terms of the contract; (5) execution and delivery of the contract with the intent that it be mutual and binding; and (6) consideration. Advantage Physical Therapy, Inc. v. Cruse, 165 S.W.3d 21, 24 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, no pet.).

         Plaintiff does not argue that the Arbitration Agreement is not a valid agreement to arbitration. Plaintiff asserts that this lawsuit involves two separate collisions “that happened virtually at the same time, (the first collision caused by PFG, and the second collision caused immediately thereafter by Defendant, Navigators Logistics, Inc., (‘Navigators'))”, and Navigators is not a signatory to the arbitration agreement (Dkt. #7 at pp. 1-2). Defendant Kenneth Paul Lockhart (“Lockhart”), the driver for Navigators, is alleged to be an employee of Navigators, acting in the full course and scope of his employment during the second collision. Thus, Lockhart is also not a signatory to the arbitration agreement. Plaintiff argues that his arbitrable claims against PFG and non-arbitrable claims against ...


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