Employee hurt her back at work. She later signed a one-page "Arbitration Acknowledgment". It called for arbitration of disputes "with your particular employer." Later still, employee sued Macy's Texas, Inc.
Macy's Texas moved to compel arbitration. Employee replied that the one-pager didn't identify Macy's Texas as a party to the Acknowledgment and that it instead listed other companies — "Federated Department Stores, Inc., Macy’s West, Inc., and Federated Systems Group, Inc."
The Supreme Court of Texas today held the non-specification of the actual employer as a party to the arbitration agreement didn't matter. Employee, the court concluded, "cannot avoid arbitration by raising factual disputes about her employer's correct legal name." In re Macy's Texas, Inc., No. 08-0584 (Tex. June 26, 2009) (per curiam).
Something bothers Blawgletter about the decision. It looks sloppy.
What if you had a contract to buy toothpicks? The agreement says you'll purchase the goods from "your particular vendor" and names three possibilities. An "assistant manager" signs, but he likewise doesn't specify for which legal entity he does so. Later, the toothpicks don't show up on time, or they have splinters, or they otherwise don't comply with the deal. Who can you sue?
The court's per curiam logic would say you can bring suit against any entity that (a) belongs to the same corporate family as the three potential toothpick suppliers and (b) you name in your petition as the "particular vendor".
The defect in our view didn't involve a question of an "employer's correct legal name." It instead concerned a basic failure to agree on who the contract binds. The case should have turned on whether the actual defendant also in fact employed the plaintiff.
We concede that the court might have decided the mandamus under the doctrine of equitable estoppel, which allows non-signatories of arbitration agreements to enforce them. But it didn't. Sloppy.