Non-parties to an Arbitration Agreement are Generally Not Bound to Arbitrate

In Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc., [2017-2130] (September 13, 2017), the Federal Circuit affirmed the district court decision that Uber Technologies, Ottomotto LLC, and Otto Trucking LLC could not compel Way merely because they Waymo was arbitrating a related dispute with Levandowski, who did have an arbitration agreement with Waymo.

The Federal Circuit said that Contract law principles hold that non-parties to a contract
are generally not bound by the contract, and a contract to arbitrate is not an exception. A party cannot be required to submit to arbitration any dispute which it has not agreed so to submit.  The Federal Circuit noted that the California courts have, in a few situations, compelled arbitration against an entity that was not a party to an arbitration agreement. The Federal Circuit said that the issue was whether the circumstances are such that Waymo can be compelled to arbitrate on equitable grounds, in Waymo’s suit against Uber, Ottomotto, and Otto Trucking, where there is no agreement to arbitrate.  The district court concluded that it could not, noting that Waymo had disclaimed reliance on the contracts with the employee, and Waymo need not rely on the terms of its written agreements merely because it makes reference to such agreements.

The Federal Circuit said that while equitable doctrines permit departure from the principle that non-parties cannot be compelled to arbitrate, when necessary to avoid
inequity, California precedent guides that unless the issues of the complaint are intimately intertwined with the non-party agreement containing an arbitration clause,
compulsion to arbitrate is inappropriate.  The Federal Circuit concluded that the district court correctly concluded that arbitration should not be compelled.

Subject of Internal Investigation Could not Block Disclosure of Report to Third Party

In Waymo LLC v. Uber Technologies, Inc., [2017-2235, 2017-2253] (September 13, 2017), the Federal Circuit denied intervenor  Levandowski’s petition for a writ of mandamus.  Waymo alleges that its former employee, Levandowski, improperly  downloaded thousands of documents related to Waymo’s driverless vehicle technology and then left Waymo to found Ottomotto, which Uber subsequently acquired.  Before the acquisition closed, counsel for Ottomotto and Uber (but not counsel for Mr. Levandowski) jointly retained a law firm to investigate Ottomotto employees previously employed by Waymo, including Mr. Levandowski.  Waymo sought to obtain the report, which the court permitted, and Levandowski unsuccessfully attempted to block with a write of mandamus.  The Federal Circuit said that a petitioner has to show three things to be entitled to the writ:

First, the party seeking issuance of the writ must have no other adequate means to attain the relief he desires—a condition designed to ensure that the writ will not be used as a substitute for the regular appeals process. Second, the petitioner must satisfy the burden of showing that his right to issuance of the writ is clear and indisputable. Third, even if the first two prerequisites have been met, the issuing court, in the exercise of its discretion, must be satisfied that the writ is appropriate
under the circumstances.

The Federal Circuit found that Levandowski failed the first test — establishing he had no other adequate remedy.  While Levandowski argued that an appeal after the disclosure was in effect no remedy, the Federal Circuit concluded that a post-judgment appeal by either Uber or Levandowski would suffice to protect the rights of Levandowski and ensure the vitality of attorney-client privilege.  The Federal Circuit went on to find that Levandowski failed to show that his right to issuance of the writ was clear and indisputable.  Finally, the Federal Circuit said that  Levandowski had not persuaded it to exercise its discretion here and overrule the District Court.

Dance Like No One is Watching; Email Like it’s Being Read Aloud at your Deposition

Dance like no one is watching; email like it’s being read aloud at your deposition — this sentiment was passed along this morning by a colleague.  It is good to be periodically reminded to be careful with your business and professional emails:

When [writing emails] creating exhibits for the inevitable law suit consider

  • Keep business email professional.
  • Write as if your mother were reading over your shoulder.
  • Consider the purpose of the communication.
  • Consider the audience/recipients of the information (including a judge and jury).
  • Be factual; where opinion is called for, identify it as opinion, and make sure that it is germane to the issues; do not give an opinion (e.g., legal) that you are not qualified to give.
  • Do not make mean or demeaning references to others.
  • Make your point, but avoid extreme emphasis!!!!
  • Keep business and personal messages separate.
  • Consider how your characterization of the Company and its activities would be perceived by an outsider.


Out-of-CTRL C

CTRL C, CTRL V (copy,paste) are widely used keyboard commands to add interesting content to emails, newsletters, and slide decks.  Everyone does it, so it must be o.k., right?  Not quite.  Copying existing text or images can constitute copyright infringement, if the copied material is copyrighted.  The problem is that almost everything is copyrighted.  There is an exception for certain fair uses — uses for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. But many uses in a commercial enterprise do not qualify as fair uses.

The following guidelines can help minimize the risks when putting together publications for internal or external distribution: