Justia Arkansas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's action against Baptist Health appellees and John Hearnsberger, M.D., holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Appellant's motions to compel production of two types of disputed discovery. Appellant, a surgeon, was on the medical staff of Baptist Health from 2003 until 2011, when his appointment and clinic privileges at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock were terminated, effective immediately. Baptist Health also reported the suspension of Appellant's clinical privileges to the Arkansas State Medical Board, which, in 2014, revoked Appellant's license. Appellant appealed the revocation, and his license was reinstated. In 2011, Appellant filed a lawsuit against Baptist Health and several individuals, asserting several claims. The circuit court entered a consent order dismissing the Medical Board and Dr. Hearnsberger in his official capacity. The circuit court then granted summary judgment on Appellant's remaining claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying Appellant's motions to compel production of two types of discovery, and the discovery error was not harmless as to Appellant's discrimination and tortious-interference claims. View "Williams v. Baptist Health" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the vacated the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission affirming and adopting the findings of the administrative law judge (ALJ) awarding an additional-benefits claim to Bruce Menser, holding that Menser's additional-benefits claim was time barred by the statute of limitations. At the time Menser requested a hearing before the Commission, he was receiving workers' compensation benefits. The ALJ found that Menser sustained compensable brain and neuropathy injuries during the course and scope of his employment and that the statute of limitations did not bar Menser's claim for additional medical benefits because it had been tolled. The Commission affirmed and adopted the ALJ's decision. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commission erred in determining that Menser's claim for additional medical benefits sufficiently tolled the statute of limitations, and to the extent that Arkansas case law does not comport with this holding, those cases are overruled. View "White County Judge v. Menser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission concluding that parent companies of a direct employer are immune from tort liability under the exclusive remedy statute, Ark. Code Ann. 11-9-105(a), holding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff filed a wrongful death suit against the parent companies of her deceased husband's employer. The Commission concluded that the parent companies were statutory employers as principals and stockholders of the direct employer under section 11-9-105(a). The Commissioner further held that the parent companies' statutory entitlement to immunity was consistent with Ark. Const. art. V, 32. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that article 5, section 32 permits workers' compensation laws to extend only to "actual" employers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission's finding that the parent companies were immune under the exclusive remedy provision was supported by substantial evidence in the record; and (2) section 11-9-105(a) is constitutional because the parent companies had an employment relationship with Plaintiff's deceased husband. View "Meyers v. Yamato Kogyo Co." on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying BHC Pinnacle Point Hospital, LLC's motion to compel arbitration of a class action complaint filed by Employees, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, holding that Employees' claims fell within the scope of their voluntary arbitration agreements with Pinnacle Pointe. In their complaint, Employees alleged that Pinnacle Point violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA), Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-201 et seq. Pinnacle Point filed a motion to dismiss the complaint and compel arbitration, asserting that Employees' claims fell within the scope of their respective alternative resolution for conflicts agreements they executed with Pinnacle Pointe. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred as a matter of law in denying Pinnacle Pointe's motion to compel arbitration. View "BHC Pinnacle Pointe Hospital, LLC v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's order granting a motion to dismiss filed by the Arkansas Governor and Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission Deputy Director and dismissing Plaintiff's claims pursuant to the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act, Ark. Code Ann. 21-1-601 et seq., as well as the state and federal constitutions, holding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their official capacities but was no defense to Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was terminated because he refused to violate state policy. The circuit court dismissed all claims against Defendants solely on the basis of sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) sovereign immunity precluded Plaintiff's official capacity claims; but (2) the circuit court erred when it found that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's claims against Defendants in their individual capacities. View "Harris v. Hutchison" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiff's action against the University of Arkansas, the Trustees of the University of Arkansas, and several individuals, both in their individual and official capacities, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed Plaintiff's claims. Specifically, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err by requiring Plaintiff to pay for counsel of the representatives of a class of students implicated in his 2015 Arkansas Freedom of Information Act data request; (2) did not err by dismissing Plaintiff's claims for monetary relief against the official-capacity defendants based on sovereign immunity; (3) did not err by dismissing individual-capacity claims against two individuals; (4) did not err in finding that Plaintiff's individual capacity claims under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act failed to state claims for which relief could be granted; and (5) properly dismissed Plaintiff's tortious interference with a contract claim and civil conspiracy claim. Finally, the Court held that the University did not waive its sovereign immunity on a claim under the Arkansas Whistle-Blower Act. View "Steinbuch v. University of Arkansas" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting class certification for nursing employer at a health and rehabilitation facility and the circuit court's rulings on Appellants' motions and objections, holding that Appellees met their burden to prove the class certification requirements and that the circuit court's class certification order was sufficient. Appellees, nursing employees at a health and rehabilitation facility, filed a putative class action alleging that the facility violated the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Arkansas Minimum Wage Act (AMWA), Ark. Code Ann. 11-4-210(a) - 211(a). Appellees then filed a motion for class certification. The circuit court granted class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly determined that the requirements of Ark. R. Civ. P. 23 were satisfied and, in its class certification order, defined the class and sufficiently set forth the claims and defenses. View "Infinity Healthcare Management of Arkansas, LLC v. Boyd" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court certifying a class pursuant to Ark. R. Civ. P. 23, holding that the circuit court properly granted the class certification filed by Appellees. Appellees, employees of Appellant, filed their class-action complaint alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment based on Appellant's failure to compensate them for earned but unused vacation time. The circuit court entered an amended order granting class certification. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellees met their burden of proof as to the commonality requirement; (2) Appellees met their burden of proof as to the predominance requirement; and (3) a class action was a superior means of resolving the contractual dispute at the heart of this case. View "Industrial Welding Supplies of Hattiesburg, LLC v. Pinson" on Justia Law

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In this case alleging unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Appellants' motion for class certification, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in concluding that Appellants did not meet the Ark. R. Civ. P. 23 requirements for class certification. Appellants, former employees of Cooper Clinic, P.A., filed a class-action complaint against Cooper Clinic and the entities that acquired Cooper Clinic's assets (collectively, Mercy). Appellants sought to certify a class to consist of individuals who worked for Cooper Clinic and were terminated as part of the merger with Mercy without being paid for their unused vacation time. The circuit court denied the motion for class certification on the basis that all former employees had eventually been paid for their unused vacation time. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the class of individuals who were not paid for their unused vacation time at the time of the termination of their employment with Cooper Clinic still existed and that the circuit court abused its discretion by relying on Cooper Clinic's payments to employees with unused vacation-time balances to defeat Rule 23's requirements. View "Vaughn v. Mercy Clinic Fort Smith Communities" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's petition for judicial review of an administrative decision by the director of the Arkansas State Police, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the petition was barred by the State's sovereign immunity from suit. Appellant, a California resident, submitted an application to the state police to become licensed as a private investigator in Arkansas. The application was denied, and Appellant filed an administrative appeal. Colonel William J. Bryant, in his capacity as the director of the state police, found that Appellant was ineligible to receive a license due to his prior convictions. The circuit court concluded that Appellant's petition for judicial review was barred by the State's sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State's sovereign immunity from suit did not apply to this proceeding. View "Hackie v. Bryant" on Justia Law