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Hawk Steel Industries, Inc. v. Stafford

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

August 15, 2019

Hawk Steel Industries, Inc., Appellant
v.
Willie James Stafford, Jr., Appellee

          On Appeal from the 236th District Court Tarrant County, Texas Trial Court No. 236-302552-18

          Before Sudderth, C.J.; Gabriel and Birdwell, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BONNIE SUDDERTH, CHIEF JUSTICE

         Appellant Hawk Steel Industries, Inc., appeals the trial court's order denying its request to compel arbitration. Because Hawk failed to show that Stafford's claims are subject to a valid arbitration agreement, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion and affirm the trial court's order.

         Background

         Stafford, an employee of Hawk, a nonsubscriber to workman's compensation, filed suit against Hawk alleging that he suffered an on-the-job injury while unloading a truck. Hawk answered and moved to compel arbitration. In support of its motion, Hawk attached a business records affidavit that authenticated three documents as records made and retained by Hawk in the regular course of business:

(1) a document entitled "Receipt of SPD and Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Acknowledgment" (Receipt and Acknowledgment),
(2) the "Summary Plan Description" of Hawk's occupational injury employee benefit plan (SPD), and
(3) a "Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate" (MAA).

         The Receipt and Acknowledgment states in full:

RECEIPT OF SPD AND MUTUAL AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
RECEIPT OF MATERIALS. By my signature below, I acknowledge that I have received and read (or had the opportunity to read) the Summary Plan Description (the "SPD") for the Hawk Steel Industries, Inc. Occupational Injury Employee Benefit Plan, effective March 1, 2008.
ARBITRATION. I also acknowledge that this SPD includes a mandatory company policy requiring that certain claims or disputes relating to an on-the-job injury (that cannot otherwise be resolved between the Company and me) must be submitted to an arbitrator, rather than a judge and jury in court. I understand that by receiving this SPD and becoming employed (or continuing my employment) with the Company at any time on or after March 1, 2008, I am accepting and agreeing to comply with these arbitration requirements. I understand that the Company is also accepting and agreeing to comply with these arbitration requirements. All covered claims brought by my spouse, children, beneficiaries, representatives, executors, administrators, guardians, heirs or assigns are also subject to the SPD's arbitration policy, and any decision of an arbitrator will be final and binding on such persons and the Company. [emphasis added]

         Except for the title of the document, the Receipt and Acknowledgment does not reference any document entitled "Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate." The SPD, which is specifically referenced, does ...


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