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AT&T Mobility Services LLC v. Jean-Baptiste

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

July 13, 2018

AT&T MOBILITY SERVICES LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANCESCA JEAN-BAPTISTE, Defendant.

          OPINION

          Hon. Madeline Cox Arleo United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiff AT&T Mobility Services LLC's (“Plaintiff” or “AT&T”) Motion to Compel Arbitration, ECF No. 3, and Defendant Francesca Jean-Baptiste's (“Defendant” or “Jean-Baptiste”) Cross-Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, ECF No. 11. For the reasons set forth below, AT&T's Motion to Compel Arbitration is DENIED and Jean-Baptiste's Cross-Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         AT&T asks the Court to compel arbitration pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 4 and to stay a pending action in the Superior Court of New Jersey Law Division, Essex County (the “State Court Action”), which AT&T alleges was initiated by Jean-Baptiste in violation of a pre-dispute arbitration agreement (the “Arbitration Agreement”). The enforceability of that Arbitration Agreement against Jean-Baptiste is at the core of the present dispute.

         Jean-Baptiste is employed by AT&T as an Assistant Store Manager in Union, New Jersey. Compl. ¶ 7. On March 18, 2016, she received an email with the subject heading “Action Required: Notice Regarding Arbitration Agreement.” Id. ¶ 9. The email advised Jean-Baptiste that AT&T had created “an alternative process for resolving disputes between the company and employees.” Id. at Ex. 1. This alternative process would use “independent, third-party arbitration rather than courts or juries” and, according to AT&T, “is more informal than a lawsuit in court, and may be faster.” Id.

         The email also informed Jean-Baptiste that her participation in the arbitration program was optional:

The decision on whether or not to participate is yours to make. To help you make your decision, it is very important for you to review the Management Arbitration Agreement linked to this email. It provides important information on the process and the types of disputes that are covered by the Agreement.
Again, the decision is entirely up to you. To give you time to consider your decision, the company has established a deadline of no later than 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 to opt out - that is, decline to participate in the arbitration process - using the instructions below.
If you do not opt out by the deadline, you are agreeing to the arbitration process as set forth in the Agreement. This means that you and AT&T are giving up the right to a court or jury trial on claims covered by the Agreement.

Id. (emphasis original).

         In other words, AT&T would assume Jean-Baptiste wished to give up her rights unless she followed their prescribed “opt out” procedure: (1) open the Arbitration Agreement attached to the email; (2) click a link in the Arbitration Agreement to visit a separate website; and (3) follow the instructions on that separate site to register Jean-Baptiste's opt out. Id. Whether she wished to opt out or not, AT&T instructed Jean-Baptiste to click the “Review Completed” button after reading the Arbitration Agreement. Id. at Exh. 2.

         On April 1, 2016 and April 15, 2016, AT&T sent follow-up emails identical to the first email. Id. ¶ 11. On April 18, 2016, Jean-Baptiste accessed the text of the Arbitration Agreement and clicked the “Review Completed” button. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. On May 19, 2016, the opt out period expired, and the Arbitration Agreement allegedly took effect. Id. ¶ 18.

         B. ...


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