In Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc., ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Jun. 25, 2014; pub. ord. Jul. 22, 2014), the Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by dismissing the plaintiff's class claims with prejudice after "deciding the issue whether the parties agreed to class arbitration." Slip op. at 2. Instead, the trial court "should have submitted the issue to the arbitrator." Id.
The opinion frames the question as follows:
Sandquist contends that the trial court “wrongly conducted a clause construction analysis of the Acknowledgements and held that they contain an implied class action waiver.” Sandquist, citing Green Tree Fin. Corp. v. Bazzle (2003) 539 U.S. 444 [123 S.Ct. 2402, 156 L.Ed.2d 414] (Bazzle) and Garcia v. DIRECTV, Inc. (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 297 (Garcia), argues that the arbitrator, not the court, determines whether the arbitration agreement provides for class arbitration. Defendants argue that the trial court correctly relied on Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp. (2010) 559 U.S. 662 [130 S.Ct. 1758, 176 L.Ed.2d 605] (Stolt-Nielsen) in ruling that the court decides this issue. It turns out that this issue is not entirely settled.
Id. at 9-10.
After a lengthy discussion of the authorities bearing on the question, the Court of Appeal held:
We agree with the majority of cases that follow the plurality opinion in Bazzle that the question whether the parties agreed to class arbitration in cases where the arbitration agreement is silent is determined by the arbitrator.
Id. at 13.
According to the docket, the opinion was published after publication requests were filed by the National Association of Consumer Advocates and Public Justice.