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Augustine v. Dallas Medical Center. LLC

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

August 21, 2019




         Came on for consideration the Report of the United States Magistrate Judge in this action, this matter having been referred to the United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. On June 25, 2019, the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge was entered (the “Report”) (see Dkt. #20) recommending Defendant Dallas Medical Center, LLC's (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration (the “Motion to Compel”) (Dkt. #11) be granted in part and denied in part. See Dkt. #20. The Report recommended this case be stayed pending resolution of the arbitration proceeding. See id.

         Plaintiff Mercy Augustine (“Plaintiff”) filed objections to the Report (the “Objections”). See Dkt. #21. Defendant filed a response to the Objections (Dkt. #23). The Court has made a de novo review of the Objections and is of the opinion that the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are correct and the Objections are without merit as to the ultimate findings of the Magistrate Judge. The Court hereby adopts the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge as the findings and conclusions of the Court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff brings suit for Family Medical Leave Act interference, discrimination, and retaliation. See Dkt. #1 at 3-4. Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a registered nurse. See Dkt. #1 at 2. During her employment for Defendant, Plaintiff signed a Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate (the “Arbitration Agreement”) on March 23, 2014. See Dkt. #13 at 2; Dkt. #11-2 at 6-7. Plaintiff does not dispute that she signed the Arbitration Agreement. See Dkt. #13. The signature on behalf of Defendant is by an unidentified individual and is undated. See Dkt. #11-2. According to the cover letter attached to the Arbitration Agreement, signed by Defendant's CEO, “all employees” were required to sign the Arbitration Agreement as a condition of employment. See Id. at 2. Plaintiff was terminated on December 14, 2018, after refusing to sign a new arbitration agreement. See Dkt. #1 at 4.

         Defendant filed the Motion to Compel, requesting this case be dismissed in favor of arbitration (Dkt. #11). In response, Plaintiff argued she should not be required to arbitrate her claims against Defendant. See generally Dkt. #13. The Report found the Arbitration Agreement to be enforceable and recommended this matter be stayed pending arbitration.[1] See Dkt. #20.


         Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report, arguing the Report erred because: (1) Plaintiff is entitled to a jury trial on the issue of Defendant's signature; (2) Defendant may not have directed the making of a signature on its behalf; (3) Defendant introduced no evidence of adoption of the signature and, even if it had, the agreement lacked mutuality; (4) the date of Defendant's signature was a material fact; (5) the Arbitration Agreement was illusory and lacked mutuality; and (6) entering an Arbitration Agreement is not a routine corporate matter, and therefore the Arbitration Agreement may be void. See Dkt. #21. These are identical issues to those briefed by the parties in the Motion to Compel and responsive briefing, and were addressed by the Magistrate Judge in the Report (Dkt. #20).

         Right to Jury Trial

         Pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 1, et seq., written arbitration provisions “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C. § 2. The FAA provides that a party seeking to enforce an arbitration provision may petition the court for “an order directing the parties to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the agreement.” Id. § 4.

         “[A] party contesting the ‘making' of [an] arbitration agreement must ‘make at least some showing that under prevailing law, he would be relieved of his contractual obligations to arbitrate if his allegations proved to be true and produce some evidence to substantiate his factual allegations.'” Am. Heritage Life Ins. Co. v. Orr, 294 F.3d 702, 710 (5th Cir. 2002) (internal quotations omitted); see also Trammell v. AccentCare, Inc., 2019 WL 2417408 (5th Cir. June 7, 2019). Thus, as the party contesting the making and validity of the Arbitration Agreement, it is Plaintiff's burden to demonstrate both prevailing law supporting her contentions and some evidence to substantiate her factual allegations. See id.

         As more fully addressed in the Report regarding each of Plaintiff's theories below, Plaintiff has not submitted any evidence to substantiate her assertion that the Arbitration Agreement is not valid and enforceable. In American Heritage, the Fifth Circuit addressed the sufficiency of evidence presented in support of a demand for trial under 9 U.S.C. § 4. Am. Heritage, 294 F.3d at 710. American Heritage held that self-serving affidavits were insufficient evidence do not amount to the type of evidence required to call the “making” of an arbitration agreement into question. Id. (citing Bhatia v. Johnston, 818 F.2d 418, 421-22 (5th Cir. 1987)).

         In this case, Plaintiff submits no evidence to support her argument attacking the making of the Arbitration Agreement. Accordingly, Plaintiff's objection to the recommendation she be denied a jury trial on the making of the Arbitration Agreement is OVERRULED.

         Signature ...

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