Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership v Clark

Kindred sought review of the Kentucky Supreme Court decision requiring powers of attorney to specifically authorize entry into arbitration agreements before the arbitration agreement can be formed. The Court, 7-1 with Gorsuch not participating, reversed. The majority held that under the Federal Arbitration Act, state rules of decision that single out arbitration agreements are preempted and the Kentucky decision here singles out arbitration agreements as it does not require specific authorization for contracts to sell property or settle claims though settlement agreements. It rejected Clark’s argument that the Kentucky decision does not violate the Act as it only controlled contract formation holding the Act’s text and court precedent prevent states from disfavoring arbitration agreements at formation and in fact allowing such an exception would allow states to defeat the Act by declaring people incompetent to enter into arbitration agreements. The majority remanded Clark’s case to enforce the arbitration agreement and a companion case to analyze anew whether the text of the power of attorney authorized entering into the arbitration agreement. Thomas dissented restating his view that the Act does not apply in state courts.

Water Splash, Inc. v Menon

Water sought review of the Texas Court of Appeals decision barring service of process through mail under the Hague Service convention. The Court, with Gorsuch not participating, resolved a split of appellate authority by reversing and remanding. It held the Convention is limited to serving documents, there is no textual bar to service by mail as it uses the term “serve’ which is broad enough to encompass service by mail and any ambiguity is resolved against Menon because the drafting history, executive branch opinion and the conclusions of the courts of other countries all support service of process being allowed under the Convention. The case was remanded to evaluate Menon’s arguments against service by mail and any other preserved issue.

Lewis v Clarke

Lewis sought review of the Connecticut Supreme Court decision holding their personal injury suit against Clarke is bared by his Indian tribe employer’s sovereign immunity. The Court, with two justices concurring in judgment and Gorsuch not participating, reversed. The majority held that tribal sovereign immunity is the same as state and federal immunity and suits seeking tort damages from tribal employees for acts in the course of their employment, as the car crash here, are outside the scope of immunity as the employee in his individual capacity is the real party in interest. It held that indemnity of government employees does not change the outcome as the focus is on who will be bound by a judgment and here Clarke, not his tribal employers, will be bound. Thomas concurred in judgment arguing tribal immunity does not apply to off reservation commercial activity and Clarke’s driving passengers off reservation was a commercial activity. Ginsberg concurred in judgment arguing tribes have no immunity for interacting with nontribal members outside their reservations.