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Stebbins v. Wal-Mart

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Citation Edit

Stebbins v. Wal-Mart Stores Arkansas, 2011 WL 1519390 (W.D. Ark. April 14, 2011) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

Plaintiff Stebbins applied for a variety of jobs at the Wal-Mart store in Harrison, Arkansas. According to his complaint, part of the application process was a computerized assessment that included customer interaction questions. Plaintiff felt that he was disadvantaged by these questions due to his Asperger Syndrome and that he was qualified for a number of positions that did not require customer interaction, even though he failed the assessment. Following this application process, Plaintiff sent an email to Wal-Mart customer service that provided in relevant part:

Notice to companies

. . . I am sending a link to this webpage to various companies to put you on notice. If you contact me in any way, shape, or form, you hereby acknowledge that you have read, understand, and agree to be legally bound by the terms below. . . .

You hereby agree that you, as well as any principal or employer that you are acting on behalf of, will initially attempt to settle all legal disputes, even those not relating to this contract by semi-binding arbitration using the services of www.net-arb.com, where you are bound but I am not.

Wal-Mart Customer Care responded with a form response acknowledging receipt of the email and advising Plaintiff to contact a specific office to discuss the matter further. Plaintiff followed up with another email informing Wal-Mart that it had entered into a binding contract by responding and when accepting Plaintiff's check at a store for the purchase of a gallon of milk.

Plaintiff then registered with net-ARB, an online arbitration service and net-ARB sent an email to Wal-Mart regarding Plaintiff's desire to arbitrate an employment dispute. Wal-Mart declined to participate.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

Plaintiff brought this action to confirm his "award," pursuant to a provision of his contract that states that Wal-Mart had 24 hours to accept an invitation to arbitrate subject to an award in Plaintiff's favor of six-hundred billion dollars regardless of the merits of the case. Wal-Mart filed a motion for summary judgment, which was granted.

Under the Federal Arbitration Act,[1] a dispute must be submitted to arbitration if there is a valid agreement to arbitrate, however, a party who has not agreed to arbitrate a dispute cannot be forced to do so. Plaintiff alleged that Wal-Mart accepted the [[contract] in question by replying to his e-mail. While the law recognizes unilateral contracts in certain situations, such as rewards, contests, and changes to employee manuals,[2] even these agreements require some meaningful act and assent to enter into an agreement.

A [[unilateral contract] is a promise in exchange for an act and it cannot be said that Wal-Mart's response to Plaintiff's email constituted an act sufficient to enter into a binding agreement.

References Edit

  1. 9 U.S.C. §§1-16.
  2. See Aon Risk Services, Inc. v. Meadors, 267 S.W.3d 603, 609 (Ark. App. 2007) (full-text).

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