Judge: Maurice A. Leiter, Case: 22STCV33378, Date: 2023-03-21 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 22STCV33378    Hearing Date: March 21, 2023    Dept: 54

Superior Court of California

County of Los Angeles


Jeffrey Hester,






Case No.:








Tentative Ruling



Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, et al.,












Hearing Date: March 21, 2023

Department 54, Judge Maurice A. Leiter

Motion to Compel Arbitration

Moving Party: Defendants Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Health System

Responding Party: Plaintiff Jeffrey Hester





If the parties wish to submit on the tentative, please email the courtroom at¿SMCdept54@lacourt.org¿with notice to opposing counsel (or self-represented party) before 8:00 am on the day of the hearing.

            The Court considers the moving papers, opposition, and reply.




            On October 12, 2022, Plaintiff Jeffrey Hester filed a complaint against Defendants Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Health System asserting causes of action for FEHA violations and wrongful termination.




“On petition of a party to an arbitration agreement alleging the existence of a written agreement to arbitrate a controversy and that a party thereto refuses to arbitrate a controversy, the court shall order the petitioner and the respondent to arbitrate the controversy if it determines that an agreement to arbitrate the controversy exists….”  (CCP § 1281.2.)  The right to compel arbitration exists unless the court finds that the right has been waived by a party’s conduct, other grounds exist for revocation of the agreement, or where a pending court action arising out of the same transaction creates the possibility of conflicting rulings on a common issue of law or fact.   (CCP § 1281.2(a)-(c).)  “The party seeking arbitration bears the burden of proving the existence of an arbitration agreement, and the party opposing arbitration bears the burden of proving any defense, such as unconscionability.”  (Pinnacle Museum Tower Assn. v. Pinnacle Market Development (US), LLC (2012) 55 Cal.4th 223, 236.)


A.        Existence of Arbitration Agreement


Defendants move to compel arbitration based on the Mutual Agreement to Arbitrate Claims executed by Plaintiff on March 13, 2006. (Decl. Hickey, Exh. A.) The agreement provides, “you and Cedars-Sinai agree to submit all claims or controversies in away way relating to or associated with your employment or the termination of employment (‘Claims’), to the Conflict Resolution Procedure of the Medical Center. If a Claim is not resolved by the Conflict Resolution Procedure, and if the Claim demands $25,000.00 or more, you and Cedars-Sinai agree that the Claim will be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration” (Id.) This action arises from Plaintiff’s employment with Defendants.


Defendants have met their burden to establish an agreement to arbitrate. The burden shifts to Plaintiff to establish any defenses to enforcement.


B. Enforceability of Agreement


1. Unconscionability


Plaintiff asserts that the arbitration agreement is procedurally unconscionable as it is an adhesion contract. Regarding procedural unconscionability, the California Supreme Court has held:


“[T]here are degrees of procedural unconscionability. At one end of the spectrum are contracts that have been freely negotiated by roughly equal parties, in which there is no procedural unconscionability . . . . Contracts of adhesion that involve surprise or other sharp practices lie on the other end of the spectrum. [Citation.] Ordinary contracts of adhesion, although they are indispensable facts of modern life that are generally enforced (see Graham v. Scissor–Tail, Inc. (1981) 28 Cal.3d 807, 817–818, 171 Cal.Rptr. 604, 623 P.2d 165), contain a degree of procedural unconscionability even without any notable surprises, and ‘bear within them the clear danger of oppression and overreaching.’ (Id. at p. 818 [171 Cal.Rptr. 604, 623 P.2d 165].)” (Gentry v. Superior Court (2007) 42 Cal.4th 443, 469, 64 Cal.Rptr.3d 773, 165 P.3d 556.)


(Baltazar v. Forever 21, Inc. (2016) 62 Cal.4th 1237, 1244.)


Generally, in the employer-employee context, there is unequal bargaining power. (See Amendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare Services, Inc. (2000) 24 Cal.4th 83, 115 [“in the case of preemployment arbitration contracts, the economic pressure exerted by employers on all but the most sought-after employees may be particularly acute, for the arbitration agreement stands between the employee and necessary employment, and few employees are in a position to refuse a job because of an arbitration requirement.”]


The agreement here is one of adhesion and at least a low degree of procedural unconscionability is present. But this does not, in itself, render the arbitration agreement unconscionable; to find the agreement unenforceable, the degree of substantive unconscionability must be high. (See Dotson v. Amgen, Inc. (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 975, 981.)


            Plaintiff asserts that the agreement is substantively unconscionable because it does not provide for adequate discovery, and it imposes a minimum amount in controversy. The agreement provides for discovery under CCP § 1283.05, which incorporates the Civil Discovery Act. Plaintiff does not provide authority stating a minimum amount in controversy for arbitration is unconscionable. Plaintiff has not established substantive unconscionability.

            Plaintiff also argues that the agreement violations Labor Code § 450 because it requires Plaintiff pay half of the arbitration fees. Section 450 states, “no employer…may compel or coerce any employee, or applicant for employment, to patronize his or her employer, or any other person, in the purchase of any thing of value.” Plaintiff does not cite authority applying this provision to arbitration agreements.

            Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration is GRANTED. The action is STAYED.