The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has upheld a Texas federal court’s order dismissing a putative class action lawsuit after a plaintiff failed to pursue arbitration. In Griggs v. S.G.E. Management, L.L.C., et al., No. 17-50655 (5th Cir. September 27, 2018), a man named Griggs began working for a Texas-based energy company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Ignite, as an Independent Associate (“IA”). As part of the hiring process, Griggs agreed to arbitrate any claims that may arise between himself and the energy company or another IA. In addition, the arbitration agreement required that any questions related to the arbitrability of such disputes would be determined by an arbitrator.
Later, Griggs filed a putative class action lawsuit accusing Ignite of operating an illegal pyramid scheme and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Statute in the Western District of Texas. The district court then issued a stay and compelled the case to arbitration. Because Griggs did not to pursue arbitration for more than one-year and failed to show adequate cause why the case should not be dismissed “for want of prosecution,” the Western District of Texas ultimately dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice. After that, Griggs filed an appeal with the nation’s Fifth Circuit.
On appeal, the court first discussed a similar case in which the Fifth Circuit declared an earlier version of the same company’s arbitration provision unenforceable. In that case, the court certified a class of IAs who began working for the energy company before Ignite amended its arbitration clause. Griggs, however, began his employment with Ignite approximately one-year after the amendment took effect and filed his lawsuit more than three years later.