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Edwards v. Doordash, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 25, 2018

DEWEY EDWARDS, Individually and On Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
DOORDASH, INCORPORATED, Defendant-Appellee

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

          Before WIENER, ELROD, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.

          LESLIE H. SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judge:

         DoorDash is a California company that provides food-delivery service by using independent contractors it calls Dashers. A Dasher named Dewey Edwards brought suit against the company and sought conditional class certification. The district court, concluding there was an arbitration agreement with a valid delegation clause, granted DoorDash's motion to compel arbitration and dismissed Edwards's claims without addressing the class certification motion. We AFFIRM.

          FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         DoorDash customers in over two hundred cities can use a mobile application to order food from certain restaurants. A Dasher will deliver the order to the customer. DoorDash requires Dashers to sign an Independent Contractor Agreement ("ICA"). The ICA that Edwards signed contains this arbitration clause:

Contractor and Company agree that final and binding arbitration will be the exclusive means of resolving any disputes between Contractor and Company. Any such disputes shall be resolved by pursuant [sic] to the commercial rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and such arbitration shall be held in Palo Alto, California. Judgment on any award rendered by the arbitrator may be entered in any court having jurisdiction over the award. Contractor and Company agree to bring any disputes in arbitration on an individual basis only and not as a class or other collective action basis. Accordingly, there will be no right or authority for any dispute to be brought, heard or arbitrated as a class or other collective action. This class and collective action waiver shall not be severable from this Agreement in any case in which the dispute is filed as such a class or collective action and a civil court of competent jurisdiction finds that this waiver is unenforceable. In such instance, the class or collective action must be litigated in a civil court of competent jurisdiction.

         Edwards's ICA also includes this choice-of-law provision: "This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of California without reference to the conflict-of-laws principles thereunder."

         Edwards filed suit against DoorDash in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, alleging Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") violations. He also moved for conditional certification of a class of similarly situated individuals nationwide on the same day. In response, DoorDash filed both an emergency motion to stay the conditional certification and a motion to compel individual arbitration and dismiss the suit. The magistrate judge who was referred the case partially granted DoorDash's motion, stating the arbitration issue would be considered first and the certification issue later. Edwards objected, but his objection was overruled.

         After an evidentiary hearing and supplemental briefing, the magistrate judge issued a report and recommendation that the motion to dismiss should be granted and Edwards should be compelled to arbitrate his claims. The district court agreed. Edwards timely appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         On appeal, Edwards has two primary contentions. First, he argues the district court erred in deciding the arbitrability question before class certification. Second, he argues the district court erred in enforcing the arbitration agreement. Before addressing each argument, we consider our jurisdiction.

         I. Whether this court has appellate jurisdiction

         Edwards categorized his appeal as interlocutory even though the suit was dismissed in order for arbitration to proceed. Interlocutory appeals of orders compelling arbitration are prohibited. 9 U.S.C. § 16(b). What is permitted, though, is an appeal of a final decision regarding arbitration. Id. § 16(a)(3). A final decision is one that "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing more for the court to do but execute the judgment." Green Tree Servicing, ...


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