United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, El Dorado Division
DASHUNDA R. JOHNSON PLAINTIFF
O. Hickey United States District Judge.
the Court is the Report and Recommendation filed March 2,
2017, by the Honorable Barry A. Bryant, United States
Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Arkansas. (ECF
No. 18). Plaintiff Dashunda R. Johnson filed timely
objections to the Report and Recommendation, along with a
supplement to her objections. (ECF Nos. 19, 22). The Court
finds the matter ripe for consideration.
case is an employment-discrimination action brought under
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), and
the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”). Plaintiff is a former employee of
Defendant NPC International, Inc., and alleges that she was
wrongfully terminated. On January 17, 2017, Defendant filed a
Motion to Compel Arbitration and Dismiss or in the
Alternative Stay Proceedings (ECF No. 12), stating that it
and Plaintiff electronically signed a valid arbitration
agreement that covers Plaintiff's claims in this matter.
Bryant issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that
the Court grant Defendant's motion, compel this matter to
arbitration, and stay the case pending completion of the
arbitration. Judge Bryant reasoned that the parties'
arbitration agreement is a valid contractual agreement under
Arkansas law,  and that Plaintiff's claims in this
matter fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement.
Thus, Judge Bryant concluded that it is appropriate to compel
this matter to arbitration. On March 10, 2017, Plaintiff
filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 646(b)(1), the Court will conduct a
de novo review of all issues related to
Plaintiff's specific objections.
objects to Judge Bryant's recommendation that the
arbitration agreement is a valid contractual agreement under
Arkansas law. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the
arbitration agreement is invalid due to lack of competent
parties because she does not remember her personnel
number and does not remember electronically
signing the agreement. Plaintiff also argues that the
arbitration agreement is invalid due to lack of definite
subject matter, consideration, mutual agreement, and mutual
obligations because she did not sign the agreement in ink or
electronically in cursive signature. Plaintiff argues further
that when she previously pursued a workers' compensation
claim, the arbitration agreement was not mentioned, and thus
she concludes that no arbitration agreement was signed. The
Court is unpersuaded by Plaintiff's objections.
assertion that she does not remember her personnel number or
signing the arbitration agreement is insufficient to show
that she was incompetent at the time the agreement was
signed. The Court notes that Plaintiff does not
allege that she was mentally incompetent at the time the
agreement was signed, but rather she states that she does not
remember signing the agreement. Without more evidence, the
Court cannot assume that Plaintiff lacked contractual
capacity at the time she signed the arbitration agreement.
See Harrod v. Signet Jewelers Ltd., No. 6:15-cv-6111
BAB, 2016 WL 4699710, at *2 (W.D. Ark. Aug. 16, 2016)
(finding unpersuasive the plaintiff's unsubstantiated
claim of not remembering signing an arbitration agreement),
report and recommendation adopted, Harrod v.
Signet Jewelers Ltd., No. 6:15-cv-6111 SOH, 2016 WL
4639175 (W.D. Ark. Sept. 6, 2016). Therefore, the Court finds
that Plaintiff was competent at the time the arbitration
agreement was executed.
arguments regarding the remaining four elements of a contract
under Arkansas law all rest on the assertion that Plaintiff
must not have signed the arbitration agreement because it was
not signed in ink or electronically in cursive signature. The
Court notes that an electronic signature can be used to
sign a contract and has the same force and effect as a
written signature. See Ark. Code Ann. §
25-32-107. In this case, the record shows that Plaintiff
accessed the arbitration agreement through Defendant's
computer system and clicked a box indicating that she read
and acknowledged the agreement. Under Arkansas law, this is a
valid signature for contract purposes. That aside, the form
of Plaintiff's signature has no bearing on whether the
agreement is invalid for lack of definite subject matter,
consideration, mutual agreement, or mutual obligations. As
Judge Bryant stated, the arbitration agreement covers the
essential terms of the contract in detail, and the Court
agrees that the subject-matter element is met. The Court
finds that legal consideration exists because, under the
agreement, Plaintiff and Defendant both promised to
relinquish their rights to a trial and to instead arbitrate
any legal claims that one might have against the other.
Because both parties relinquished their trial rights and
agreed to arbitrate any claims, the Court finds that the
arbitration agreement contains mutual obligations and mutual
promises. Therefore, the Court finds that all five essential
elements of a contract are met.
final objection asserts that the arbitration agreement is
invalid because it was not used to prevent her from
previously pursuing a workers' compensation claim. This
discrepancy is explained by the language of the arbitration
agreement, which states that the agreement would not prevent
Plaintiff from pursuing an action with an administrative
agency, including workers' compensation or unemployment
claims with applicable state agencies. The agreement states,
however, that all legal claims the parties have against one
another fall within the scope of the agreement. Therefore,
the Court finds that Plaintiff's previous workers'
compensation claim does not render the agreement invalid.
reasons above, the Court finds that the arbitration agreement
is valid and enforceable. Plaintiff does not object to Judge
Bryant's recommendation that her claims fall within the
scope of the arbitration agreement. The Court agrees with
Judge Bryant and finds that the agreement explicitly lists
employment claims as within its scope.
de novo review of the Report and Recommendation, and
for the reasons discussed above, the Court overrules
Plaintiff's objections and adopts the Report and
Recommendation. (ECF No. 18). Defendants' Motion to
Compel Arbitration and Dismiss or in the Alternative Stay
Proceedings (ECF No. 12) is GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART. Plaintiff's claims are referred
to arbitration in accordance with the parties' agreement.
The matter is hereby stayed and administratively terminated
pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 3, without prejudice to the right
of the parties to reopen the proceedings to enforce the