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Mariners File Opposition to Dr. Lorena Martin’s Attempt to Strike Arbitration

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Mariners advance argument that claim fails under Federal, Washington law

The Mariners filed their opposition to Dr. Lorena Martin’s motion to strike their demand for arbitration on Friday, arguing in King County Superior Court that her legal arguments are incorrect, and the Washington Law Against Discrimination and federal law properly understood permit her arbitration clause to stand, thereby forcing the dispute into arbitration and out of the public eye. You can read the motion here, and the declaration filed in support of the motion here. As is common, most of the declaration consists of supporting documentation that—in this case—we’ve already seen from other sources.

In a 22-page motion, the team argues first that under the terms of Dr. Martin’s employment contract, the issue of “arbitrability” is delegated to the arbitrator to decide. That includes, according to the club, any objections “with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement.” In the alternative, the club argues that Dr. Martin’s argument under Washington law is flawed for four independent reasons—my notes in italics:

  • The Washington statute she relies on post-dates the Employment Agreement and does not apply retroactively; (Since the specific provision of the Washington Law Against Discrimination she relies upon was enacted into law after she signed her contract, they claim, it does not affect her contract)
  • The arbitration clause does not require confidentiality, and her public policy concerns are irrelevant; (They note that the Washington Law Against Discrimination bars confidential dispute resolution, but nothing in her employment agreement requires confidentiality) [The Mariners’ counsel notes that Dr. Martin’s use of social media platforms to make allegations against the Mariners show that she has not been barred from publicly discussing her case.]
  • The Washington statute is preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act; (The doctrine of preemption dictates that where Federal law and State law actually conflict, Federal law controls, always)
  • And finally her final arguments as to parallel litigation (meaning litigating the same matter in two distinct fora) do not apply in light of the—according to the club—correct understanding of Washington law and the arbitration clause.

These documents were filed just a few minutes before noon, and at this stage I cannot tell you what I think about the strength of the legal arguments raised by each party. Each motion is, in my view, well-structured and tightly argued, but without significant background research, I do not have the expertise to say clearly who has the legal upper hand. There is more new information here as well:

  • Carolyn Cairns has been appointed as the arbitrator, should the dispute proceed through arbitration. Cairns is an experienced employment lawyer and arbitrator with over 30 years experience representing both employers and employees. We’ll continue to have coverage and analysis of the lawsuit.
  • We also learn that the Mariners’ offer to her was three months’ severance upon her termination.
  • According to the Mariners’ counsel, Dr. Martin has not participated in the ongoing arbitration process in any way.
  • Another interesting footnote: in the initial demand for arbitration, the Mariners made a claim for legal fees and other damages; in this document, the Mariners offer to drop that claim from their arbitration demand, though they reserve the right to assert it again at any time.
  • There is another filing on the way; the Mariners plan to file a “Cross-Motion to Compel Arbitration,” essentially looking to squash Dr. Martin’s motion to dismiss arbitration completely. We’ll have an analysis on that filing when it becomes available, plus any further relevant updates to the case.