Jenks v. DLA Piper Rudnick Gray CaryAnnotate this Case
In 2000, plaintiff accepted the Gray law firm’s offer of employment as an associate attorney, including a provision requiring both parties to submit all disputes relating to the employment relationship to binding arbitration. In 2005, Gray merged into DLA Piper. In 2006, plaintiff signed a “Confidential Resignation Agreement and General Release of Claims.” DLA agreed to continue to provide insurance and other benefits until August 2006, when his employment would officially terminate. The Termination Agreement is silent concerning dispute resolution. Plaintiff later sued, alleging: breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; breach of contract; promissory fraud; and constructive fraud, arguing that the firm had “undervalued” his benefits by computing them based on “artificially reduced salary figures.” DLA sought to compel arbitration. Plaintiff asserted the Termination Agreement constituted a novation, extinguishing the arbitration provision, and that even if the provision had survived, claims involving the benefit plan were not subject to arbitration. The court compelled arbitration. In 2013, the arbitrator determined DLA had breached the Termination Agreement and plaintiff had suffered emotional distress, and awarded $41,000 in contract damages plus interest, $45,000 in emotional distress damages, and $7,535.67 in costs. The court of appeal affirmed confirmation of the award.