Nearly a decade ago, the New Jersey Supreme Court in Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, L.P., held that for an arbitration agreement to be enforceable, it had to contain an explicit waiver of the parties’ right to seek access to court. According to a recent New Jersey Appellate Division opinion, that long-standing rule has been qualified to reflect the relative sophistication of the parties involved in the dispute. In County of Passaic v. Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc. d/b/a Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the Appellate Division considered a contract between the County and the entity that managed the County’s self-funded benefits plan. Following the County’s institution of a breach of contract lawsuit, Horizon successfully moved to compel arbitration based upon a clause in the parties’ agreement that required “[i]n the event of any dispute between the parties to this Agreement arising under its terms, the parties shall submit the dispute to binding arbitration under the commercial rules of the American Arbitration Association.” The clause in question contained no explicit waiver of court access. Consequently, the County appealed the decision, arguing for that very reason, the arbitration clause was unenforceable.
Due to the large-scale shutdowns triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic (“COVID-19”), many businesses were unable to operate fully, or not at all. Litigants across the country have sought to be relieved of their obligations under contracts as a result of the pandemic-related disruptions, under legal theories including impossibility, frustration of purpose, and force majeure. As recently decided cases demonstrate, proponents of these theories have faced uphill battles.
Appellate aficionados have undoubtedly heard the news that the distinctively Jerseyan Courier New 12-point font may be on its way out of New Jersey appellate practice. On January 28, 2022, the Supreme Court Rules Committees published proposed amendments to the New Jersey Court Rules, including a number of appellate rules (such as required font). Appellate practitioners should be aware of these potential changes that may be adopted for the New Jersey Appellate Division and Supreme Court.
Imagine this: You litigate a case for years. Your opponent wins summary judgment. You appeal. The appellate court agrees that the summary judgment was erroneous and remands for trial. On remand, your opponent argues that the appellate court actually affirmed the dismissal of one the claims that was clearly remanded for trial. The lower court accepts that argument. What do you do?
You are facing the injustice of being denied the victory you just won in the appellate court. You know you can return to the appellate court again—someday—as of right. But if that return trip does not happen ...
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