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Begole v. North Mississippi Medical Center, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

March 23, 2018

DR. MARY BEGOLE PLAINTIFF
v.
NORTH MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER, INC., NORTH MISSISSIPPI HEALTH SERVICES, INC., TUPELO EMERGENCY CARE ASSOCIATES, LLC, and DR. JOSEPH JOHNSEY DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sharion Aycock UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Compel Arbitration [14], wherein Defendants argue that Plaintiff is bound under certain Employment Agreements mandating arbitration.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Plaintiff, Dr. Begole, signed an Employment agreement to provide emergency physician services for North Mississippi Medical Center's (NMMC) Emergency Department on June 10, 2014. The Employment Agreement contained an arbitration clause with the following pertinent language:

Arbitration. Employer and Employee agree that all disputes between them arising out of or relating to this Agreement are to be resolved by arbitration as provided in this section. This Agreement to arbitrate shall survive the termination of this Agreement.

         NMMC later terminated all employment agreements with its Emergency Department physicians in 2015, deciding instead to operate under an independent contractor model. At this point, all emergency physicians were offered independent contractor agreements.

         Plaintiff signed the Independent Contractor Agreement (IC Agreement) on February 12, 2015. The IC agreement contained the following language within its arbitration clause:

Arbitration. Disputes arising under this Agreement which are not resolved by agreement of the Parties shall, upon written request of either Party, be submitted to arbitration pursuant to the rules of the American Health Lawyers Association.

         Plaintiff brings claims in this Court under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Title VII), and state law claims. Defendant moved to compel arbitration pursuant to the Employment Agreement and the IC Agreement under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). Plaintiff disputes the validity of both agreements.

         Standard

         Under the FAA, courts conduct a two-prong arbitration inquiry, determining “first, whether the parties intended to arbitrate the dispute, and second, if they did intend to arbitrate, ‘whether legal constraints external to the parties' agreement foreclosed the arbitration of those claims.'” Qualcomm Inc. v. Am. Wireless License Group, 980 So.2d 261, 268 (Miss. 2007) (quoting East Ford, Inc. v. Taylor, 826 So.2d 709, 713 (Miss. 2002)). “The first prong is twofold in that the court considers whether there is a valid arbitration agreement and then whether the parties' dispute is within the scope of the arbitration agreement.” Greater Canton Ford Mercury, Inc. v. Ables, 948 So.2d 417, 421 (Miss. 2007) (citing East Ford, 826 So.2d at 713). Under the second prong, “[t]he FAA mandates that arbitration agreements shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” Ables, 948 So.2d at 423 (quoting Terminix Int'l, Inc. v. Rice, 904 So.2d 1051, 1055 (Miss. 2004)[1].

         There is no dispute that Plaintiff executed the arbitration agreement, thus the question before the Court is whether Plaintiff's claims are within the scope of an enforceable arbitration clause. “[A]s with any other contract, the parties' intentions control, but those intentions are generously construed as to issues of arbitrability.” Mitsubishi Motors Corp. v. Soler Chrysler- Plymouth, Inc., 473 U.S. 614, 626, 105 S.Ct. 3346, 87 L.Ed.2d 444 (1985). Though the FAA creates “substantive federal law regarding the enforceability of arbitration agreements, ” it does not “alter background principles of state contract law regarding the scope of agreements (including the question of who is bound by them).” Crawford, 748 F.3d at 257.

         Analysis and Discussion

         Following the conversion of her employment contract into an independent contract and her eventual termination, Plaintiff brings the following claims: (1) gender discrimination under Title VII, (2) retaliation under Title VII, (3) age discrimination under the ADEA, (4) retaliation under the ADEA, (5) wrongful termination, (6) intentional interference with contract, (7) intentional interference with business relations, and (8) fraud. She ...


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