Ambiguities In An Employment Dispute Handbook Are To Be Construed In Favor Of Arbitration: Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC V. Adams


Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC v. Adams, [Ms. 1160877, Mar. 16, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). The Supreme Court (Sellers, J., and Stuart, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, and Wise, JJ., concur) reverses a judgment of the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court denying Bridgestone's motion to compel arbitration of an employment-related dispute.

The Court first states the standard of review:

"This Court reviews de novo the denial of a motion to compel arbitration. Parkway Dodge, Inc. v. Yarbrough, 779 So. 2d 1205 (Ala. 2000). A motion to compel arbitration is analogous to a motion for a summary judgment. TransSouth Fin. Corp. v. Bell, 739 So. 2d 1110, 1114 (Ala. 1999). The party seeking to compel arbitration has the burden of proving the existence of a contract calling for arbitration and proving that that contract evidences a transaction affecting interstate commerce. Id. '[A]fter a motion to compel arbitration has been made and supported, the burden is on the non-movant to present evidence that the supposed arbitration agreement is not valid or does not apply to the dispute in question.' Jim Burke Automotive, Inc. v. Beavers, 674 So. 2d 1260, 1265 n. 1 (Ala. 1995) (opinion on application for rehearing)."

Fleetwood Enters., Inc. v. Bruno, 784 So. 2d 277, 280 (Ala. 2000) (emphasis omitted).

Ms. *6. Citing SSC Selma Operating Co. v. Fikes, [Ms. 1160080, May 19, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2017), the Court (Ms. *12-13) reiterates that "[i]n the event of an ambiguity or uncertainty over the policy of an arbitration clause, federal policy 'dictates that it be resolved in favor of arbitration.'" Because this case turns upon alleged ambiguities in Bridgestone's employee dispute resolution plan, those ambiguities were required to be resolved in favor of arbitration such that the circuit court erred in denying Bridgestone's motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the terms of the Plan.

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