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Lindsey v. C&J Well Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. North Dakota

November 30, 2018

Vikki Nicole Lindsey, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Dustin Ray Payne, Melissa Hopkins, as surviving parent of Dustin Ray Payne, and Scottie Payne, as surviving parent of Dustin Ray Payne, Plaintiffs,
v.
C&J Well Services, Inc., C&J Well Services, Inc. d/b/a C&J Energy Services, C&J Energy Services, Inc., Nabors Completion & Production Services Co., Superior Well Services, Inc., Nabors Drilling Technologies USA, Inc., Nabors Drilling USA, LP, Nabors Corporate Services, Inc., Nabors Industries, Inc., and John Doe, I, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO COMPEL ARBITRATION AND STAY LITIGATION

          DANIEL L. HOVLAND, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         Before the Court is the Defendants' “Motion to Compel Arbitration and Demand for Stay of Litigation” filed on July 14, 2016. See Doc. No. 39. The Plaintiffs filed a response in opposition to the motion on August 15, 2017. See Doc. No. 54. The Defendants filed a reply brief on September 20, 2017. See Doc. No. 55. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 3, 2014, Dustin Ray Payne sustained fatal injuries due to an explosion that occurred as he was commencing welding work on a saltwater tanker trailer. Payne was an employee of Nabors Completion & Production Services Co. (“Nabors”) at the time of the incident. According to the complaint, Defendant Superior Well Services, Inc. onwed the property on which Payne sustained his injuries. See Doc. No. 1. On February 9, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed this action against the Defendants seeking damages resulting from Payne's death. See Doc. No. 1. The Plaintiffs' complaint alleges six causes of action: (1) intentional injuries against Nabors Completion & Production Services Co., (2) respondeat superior liability against all defendants, (3) negligence against all defendants, (4) strict liability against all Defendants, (5) premises liability against all Defendants, and (6) a cause of action entitled “Unlicensed Businesses” against Nabors Completion & Production Services Co., Superior Well Services, Inc., Nabors Corporate Services, Inc. and Nabors Industries, Inc. Id. at pp. 5-9. The Plaintiffs specifically request economic damages as well as non-economic damages “representing Dustin Ray Payne, and his family's, pain, suffering, mental anguish, and emotional distress[.]” Id. at p. 10.

         On July 14, 2016, the Defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration and stay litigation of this matter. See Doc. No. 39. During Plaintiffs' response time, a notice of bankruptcy was filed, indicating “Defendants C&J Energy Services, Inc. and C&J Well Services, Inc. (f/k/a Nabors Completion & Production Services, Inc.)” filed voluntary petitions in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas (“the Bankruptcy Court”), seeking relief pursuant to Chapter 11 of Title 11 of the United States Code. See Doc. No. 46. Consequently, on August 22, 2016, Magistrate Judge Charles S. Miller, Jr. issued an order staying this action. See Doc. No. 48. On December 8, 2016, the Bankruptcy Court issued an order permitting this action “to proceed to trial and judgment . . . .” See Doc. No. 49-1.

         Magistrate Judge Miller lifted the stay in this case on June 6, 2017. See Doc. No. 50. The Plaintiffs subsequently filed a response in opposition to the Defendant's motion to compel arbitration and further stay the litigation on August 15, 2017. See Doc. No. 54. The Defendants filed a reply brief on September 20, 2017. See Doc. No. 55.

         II. LEGAL DISCUSSION

         In their motion to compel arbitration and stay this action, Defendants contend all of the Plaintiffs' claims against all Defendants[1] are subject to a Nabors' Employee Dispute Resolution Program (“Dispute Resolution Program”) and under such program, the parties must submit the dispute to arbitration. The Plaintiffs contend their claims are not governed by the arbitration provision contained within the Dispute Resolution Program because “Payne did not possess any cognizable legal rights in the wrongful death claim to contract away such an action.” See Doc. No. 54.

         Payne's employment relationship with Nabors[2] was governed by the Dispute Resolution Program, which provided that in the event of a dispute between Payne and Nabors, the matter would be submitted to an arbitrator. See Doc. No. 41-2. Payne, by accepting the “Nabors Application Release, ” acknowledged he would be required “to adhere to the Dispute Resolution Program and its requirement for submission of disputes to a process that may include mediation and/or arbitration.” See Doc. No. 41-1, p. 3. The Dispute Resolution Program is “designed to provide a means for a quick, fair, accessible, and inexpensive resolution of Disputes between the Company and the Company's present and former Employees and Applicants for employment related to or arising out of a current, former or potential employment relationship with the Company.” See Doc. No. 41-2, p. 1. Moreover, the Dispute Resolution Program “is intended to create an exclusive procedural mechanism for the final resolution of all Disputes falling within its terms.” Id. Specifically, the Dispute Resolution Program requires all disputes “be arbitrated on an individual basis.” Id. at 3. The Dispute Resolution Program defines a “dispute” to mean:

[A]ll legal and equitable claims, demands, and controversies, of whatever nature or kind, whether in contract, tort, under statute or regulation, or some other law, between persons bound by the Program or by an agreement to resolve Disputes under the Program, or between a person bound by the Program and a person or entity otherwise entitled to its benefits, including, but not limited to, any matters with respect to:
1. this Program;
2. the employment or potential reemployment of an Employee, including the terms, conditions, or termination of such employment with the Company;
3. employee benefits or incidents of employment with the Company;
4. any other matter related to or concerning the relationship between the Employee and the Company including, by way of example and without limitation, allegations of: discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age, veteran status or disability, sexual of other kinds of harassment; workers' compensation retaliation; defamation; infliction of emotional distress, antitrust claim ...

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