Truly Nolen: Gentry Still Binding Until Higher Court Rules Otherwise

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In a complex, comprehensive, and ultimately deferential decision, California’s Fourth Appellate District has held that Gentry v. Superior Court (42 Cal. 4th 443 (2007)) remains good law until a higher court rules otherwise. See Truly Nolen of Amer. v. Super. Ct., No. D060519 (Cal. Ct. App. Aug. 9, 2012) (available here). As such, Truly Nolen accentuates the stakes in two arbitration-related petitions currently pending before the California Supreme Court: Iskanian v. CLS Transportation and Hoover v. American Income Life Insurance.

Following an extensive summary and analysis of leading California and U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the unanimous panel concluded as follows: “Although we agree with Truly Nolen that Concepcion implicitly disapproved the reasoning of the Gentry court, the United States Supreme Court did not directly address the precise issue presented in Gentry. Under the circumstances, we decline to disregard the California Supreme Court’s decision without specific guidance from our high court.” Slip op. at 24. Thus, despite the court’s belief that the U.S. Supreme Court “disapproved” of Gentry, they nonetheless deferred to the California Supreme Court, thereby setting a benchmark for other districts and divisions within California’s intermediate appellate court to follow.

The Truly Nolen decision has been designated for publication, thus increasing the likelihood that its approach will be followed until the California Supreme Court issues a definitive ruling as to Gentry.