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Guillen-Chavez v. Readyone Industries, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District, El Paso

June 12, 2019

MARIA G. GUILLEN-CHAVEZ, Appellant,
v.
READYONE INDUSTRIES, INC., Appellee.

          Appeal from the 327th District Court of El Paso County, Texas (TC# 2011-DCV-00615)

          Before McClure, C.J., Rodriguez, and Palafox, JJ.

          OPINION

          YVONNE T. RODRIGUEZ, JUSTICE

         In this appeal, Maria Guillen-Chavez asserts that the trial court erred by entering a judgment confirming an arbitrator's award where the arbitrator was allegedly not selected pursuant to the terms of a purported agreement between her and her employer, ReadyOne Industries. Specifically, Guillen-Chavez maintains that counsel for ReadyOne consented on the record at a hearing to using a local El Paso County arbitrator to resolve a non-subscriber negligence dispute, thereby creating a Rule 11 agreement on the issue. However, the trial court eventually appointed an out-of-town arbitrator after the parties could not agree on a mutually acceptable local arbitrator.

         Guillen-Chavez asks this Court to vacate the arbitrator's award and remand to the trial court with instructions to appoint a local arbitrator. We will grant this requested relief.

         BACKGROUND

         This is not the Court's first time wading into this now more than nearly seven-year-long arbitration fight.[1] At this stage of litigation, the parties essentially agree that a motion to compel arbitration exists; the dispute now is over who can arbitrate this claim.

         By way of background, ReadyOne contends that Guillen-Chavez signed an agreement to arbitrate claims against the company. The ReadyOne arbitration agreement has an English language version and a Spanish language version. Guillen-Chavez allegedly signed the Spanish version. The arbitrator identity issue in this case arises because there is a discrepancy between the English and Spanish language versions of the arbitration agreement. The English version referred arbitration to Judicial Workplace Arbitration, Inc., whereas the Spanish version that bears Guillen-Chavez's purported signature stated that arbitration would be handled by the non-existent firm Judicial Workforce Arbitration, Inc.

         At a May 10, 2013, hearing, the trial court stated that it would grant the motion to compel arbitration, and ReadyOne stated it would submit a proposed order naming "JWA" as the arbitrator. Guillen-Chavez refused to approve the proposed order as to substance and form, leading ReadyOne to file a motion for entry of order. At the entry of order hearing, Guillen-Chavez contended that the Spanish language arbitration agreement required arbitration before an entity that did not exist, and she argued that entering an order naming an out-of-town arbitrator would be unjust. The following colloquy ensued in open court, with the portions that Guillen-Chavez maintains show a mutual agreement vis-à-vis arbitrator selection bolded and italicized:

MR. ACOSTA: This Court has held us to what the actual language of the agreement says. Judicial Workforce Arbitrators, Inc. it doesn't exist. So we've agreed to arbitrate [with] an entity that doesn't exist.
So as far as any fairness or equitable concerns that we have, I don't think they can force us to arbitrate a place out of town that we don't feel we ever agreed to. And they don't even have the correct entity on the order. What we propose, Judge, and I think what was allowed under the rules is the Court uses discretion and appoints an arbitrator locally here in town who will if the Court is compelling us to arbitrate that we both can agree to. I don't think it's fair that we should be allowed to arbitrate from out of town firm that we never agreed to. The Defense is trying to shove down our throat and put it on [the] order. We've never even heard or seen this thing before. So we'd ask the Court to exercise its discretion in appointing a local arbitrator to do the arbitration if that's what the Court is seeking us to do.
THE COURT: Mr. Hughes.
MR. HUGHES: Yeah, I would suspect that maybe this entity changed it's name. I'm not for sure. Your Honor, we would agree to go with a local arbitrator. And I say this with reluctance because we had another case where we went before a local arbitrator, finished the arbitration and then we had trouble getting the agreement or the arbitrator's award enforce[d] because the local arbitrator had disclosed every case they had done with the different firms even though the Scherr Legate Firm was involved in some of those other cases. So we've always been a little reluctant. Reluctantly in two respects because we like using local arbitrators. We like keeping things in town.
On the other hand, if there's going to be something that's going to -- we go through arbitration and suddenly it doesn't stick, we don't like to leave that sitting around. But in this case we will agree on both of those to use [a] local entity if we can agree to you know say to a local arbitration if that's okay with you guys.
MR. ISAAC: That's fine, Judge. I mean I guess the process to them there's a proposal of different arbitrators name. If we can't agree, the Court appoint[s] one based off our selection.
THE COURT: How many arbitrators do we have, two?
MR. HUGHES: Yeah, there's -- yeah, there's three or four I guess. It's pretty straight forward, yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay. And how many speak Spanish? One probably. ...

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