Kilgore v. KeyBank: Ninth Circuit to Hear Case En Banc, Setting Up Key Arbitration Rulings

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Just days after the California Supreme Court granted the petition for review in Iskanian v. CLS Transp. Los Angeles, LLC, ___ Cal. App. 4th ___ (2012), the Ninth Circuit granted a motion for en banc rehearing in Kilgore v. KeyBank Nat’l Assn., No. 09-16703 (9th Cir. Sept. 21, 2012) (available here). Since both decisions entail critical interpretations of the U.S. Supreme Court’s AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion decision, it is expected that, in concert, Iskanian and Kilgore will substantially determine the jurisprudence governing arbitration agreements in California state and federal courts.

At issue in Kilgore are the holdings in two California Supreme Court cases, Broughton v. Cigna Healthplans (21 Cal. 4th 1066 (1999)) and Cruz v. PacifiCare Health Systems, Inc. (30 Cal. 4th 303 (2003)), which until Concepcion stood without credible dissent for the proposition that public injunctive relief claims under California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (CLRA) and Unfair Competition Law (UCL), respectively, are not arbitrable as a matter of California public policy. The three-judge panel in Kilgore ruled that Concepcion overruled Broughton and Cruz. The en banc proceeding will reconsider that ruling.

In Iskanian, the California Supreme Court will be chiefly concerned with whether Concepcion overrules the unconscionability jurisprudence of Gentry v. Superior Court (42 Cal. 4th 443 (2007)) and whether Concepcion applies to actions seeking civil penalties under the California Labor Code’s Private Attorneys General Act, or PAGA. Reversal in both Iskanian and Kilgore would thus make for a decidedly different narrative than had been predicted when Concepcion was issued and many observers assessed it as the “death knell for class actions.” Instead, Concepcion has generally been narrowly interpreted. And where it has not been—as in Iskanian and Kilgore—those rulings have shown signs of frailty.