Judge: Curtis A. Kin, Case: 22STCV37153, Date: 2023-03-16 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 22STCV37153    Hearing Date: March 16, 2023    Dept: 72


Date:               3/16/23 (8:30 AM)                                         

Case:             Julio Reyes v. Barry Avenue Plating Co., Inc. et al.(22STCV37153)




Defendants Barry Avenue Plating Co., Inc. and Manuel Alvarado’s Motion to Compel Arbitration and Request to Stay Litigation is GRANTED.


Plaintiff Julio Reyes’ evidentiary objections are OVERRULED.


In this motion, defendants Barry Avenue Plating Co., Inc. (“Barry Avenue”) and Manuel Alvarado seek to compel arbitration of plaintiff Julio Reyes’ claims against them.


The Court finds that plaintiff agreed to arbitration of the causes of action asserted in this action by signing the Agreement for Binding Arbitration of Disputes on September 2, 2020. (Kearsley Decl. ¶ 7 & Ex. 1.)


Plaintiff argues that his signature on the Agreement was procured through fraud. “To make out a claim of fraud in the execution,” plaintiff must show that his signature on the Agreement “is negated by fraud so fundamental that [he was] deceived as to the basic character of the documents [he] signed and had no reasonable opportunity to learn the truth.” (Rosenthal v. Great Western Fin. Securities Corp. (1996) 14 Cal.4th 394, 425.)


Plaintiff maintains that he does not speak or read English, of which his supervisor was aware, and that his supervisor would give him documents in English to sign without explaining what they stated. (Reyes Decl. ¶¶ 4, 9, 10.) When plaintiff asked his supervisor about the contents of the documents, the supervisor would “brush off” the question or state that the documents were work related documents that plaintiff had to sign. (Reyes Decl. ¶ 11.) These averments are insufficient to demonstrate fraud in the execution of the agreement to arbitrate.


To begin with, plaintiff does not aver to the circumstances that occurred on September 2, 2020 with respect to the Agreement. Plaintiff only states what his supervisor would do when plaintiff asked what documents stated. (Reyes Decl. ¶ 11.)  Indeed, plaintiff merely claims that generally with respect to various documents with which he was presented “[f]rom time to time,” his supervisor would present them “without explaining to me what they stated.”  (Reyes Decl. ¶ 11; see also Reyes Decl. ¶ 12 [“At no point in time did [my supervisor] or anyone else tell me that one of the English documents he gave me to sign was an arbitration agreement].) Plaintiff never declares that, on September 2, 2020, he asked his supervisor what the Agreement stated. To the contrary, plaintiff states that he does not recall Barry Avenue providing him with any documents for his signature on or around September 2, 2020. (Reyes Decl. ¶ 6.) But even if it can be assumed that the arbitration agreement was presented to plaintiff without any explanation, that would be insufficient to establish fraud in the execution.  (Cf. Rosenthal, 14 Cal.4th at 424 [statements that agreements “were unimportant, or that plaintiffs need not read them” “do not void a written contract, because it is generally unreasonable, in reliance on such assurances, to neglect to read a written agreement before signing it”].)


Further, even if plaintiff had specifically asked his supervisor what the arbitration agreement stated and his supervisor replied that the document was “work related” (see Reyes Decl. ¶ 11) such a response would not be a misrepresentation. The Agreement pertained to the method of resolving any claims between plaintiff and defendants prescribed by contract. In Rosenthal, cited by plaintiff, the California Supreme Court found potential fraud in the execution where a bank representative affirmatively read and described the document for the plaintiff, who did not speak English well and did not read English at all, telling that plaintiff she needed to sign the document to open an account without explaining that plaintiff was investing in a mutual fund and that plaintiff was agreeing to arbitration. (Rosenthal, 14 Cal.4th at 427-28.) Another plaintiff in Rosenthal was blind and relied on the bank representative to read and describe the document at issue; the bank representative told her that she was signing a signature card, without telling the plaintiff that she was investing in a mutual fund or that she was agreeing to arbitration. (Id. at 429.)


Here, by contrast, plaintiff points to no affirmative misrepresentation from any representative of Barry Avenue. To the extent that plaintiff’s supervisor did not tell plaintiff that the Agreement constituted a waiver of the right to pursue claims in court, fraudulent concealment requires plaintiff to show that Barry Avenue was under a legal duty to disclose such facts to him. (See OCM Principal Opportunities Fund, L.P. v. CIBC World Markets Corp. (2007) 157 Cal.App.4th 835, 845.) Plaintiff does not argue what legal duty required Barry Avenue to explain the nature of arbitration to him. In any event, plaintiff does not declare that he was prevented from asking his supervisor further questions regarding the specific nature of the Agreement or that he was prevented from otherwise seeking assistance in translating and reading the document. As such, plaintiff fails to demonstrate that he had no reasonable opportunity to ascertain the contents of the Agreement.


Absent any evidence of any deception by representatives of Barry Avenue in getting plaintiff to sign the Agreement, plaintiff is bound by the terms of the Agreement. (Randas v. YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles (1993) 17 Cal.App.4th 158, 163, quoting 1 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (9th ed. 1987), § 120 at 145 [“Ordinarily, one who accepts or signs an instrument, which on its face is a contract, is deemed to assent to all its terms, and cannot escape liability on the ground that he has not read it. If he cannot read, he should have it read or explained to him”].)


Plaintiff also contends that he was not in the financial position to refuse to sign the Agreement. Even if signing the Agreement was a condition of employment, a “predispute arbitration agreement is not invalid merely because it is imposed as a condition of employment.” (Lagatree v. Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 1105, 1122.)


In the alternative, plaintiff requests an evidentiary hearing. However, there is no dispute of the events which would require an evidentiary hearing. (See Rosenthal, 14 Cal.4th at 414 [There is simply no authority for the proposition that a trial court necessarily abuses its discretion in a motion proceeding, by resolving evidentiary conflicts without hearing live testimony”].) Even assuming plaintiff’s supervisor told him the Agreement was “work related” and that plaintiff was required to sign the Agreement, this would not indicate fraud in the execution for the reasons discussed above.


The motion is GRANTED. Pursuant to CCP § 1281.4, this action should be STAYED pending the completion of arbitration between the parties.