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Anderson v. Dillard's

March 16, 2007

DAVID ANDERSON, PLAINTIFF - APPELLEE,
v.
DILLARD'S, INC., DEFENDANT - APPELLANT, AND RODNEY A. COLE, DEFENDANT.



Appeal from Johnson district court; GERALD T. ELLIOTT, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. The denial of a motion to arbitrate is a final and appealable order.

2. An arbitrator's power to resolve a dispute originates from an agreement to arbitrate between the parties. Without such an agreement to establish the parties' consent, the arbitrator has no jurisdiction.

3. When deciding whether to compel arbitration, a court must first consider whether there is an agreement to arbitrate between the parties. If there is such an agreement, the court must then determine whether the arbitration agreement includes the specific point at issue.

4. The primary rule for interpreting written contracts is to ascertain the parties' intent. If the terms of the contract are clear, the intent of the parties is to be determined from the language of the contract without applying rules of construction.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosen, J.

Review of the judgment of the Court of Appeals in an unpublished opinion filed June 2, 2006.

Judgment of the Court of Appeals reversing the district court is reversed. Judgment of the district court is affirmed.

This case involves the interpretation of an arbitration agreement between David Anderson and his former employer, Dillard's Inc. (Dillard's). The Court of Appeals reversed the district court's memorandum decision, which denied Dillard's motion to compel arbitration. Anderson now seeks a review of the Court of Appeals' decision, asserting that the Court of Appeals did not have jurisdiction over Dillard's appeal and that the Court of Appeals improperly concluded Anderson's tort claims arose out of his employment with Dillard's.

In 2003, when the events leading to Anderson's tort claims occurred, Anderson was employed as a full-time fire medic for the City of Lenexa, where he had worked for 23 years. Anderson also worked part-time for the Spring Hill Police Department, where he had been employed for 23 years as a reserve police officer. Anderson further supplemented his income by working as a part-time security officer for Dillard's at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park. Anderson had been employed with Dillard's for approximately 6 years.

In 2001, Dillard's initiated a policy requiring its employees to resolve disputes related to their employment through arbitration. Dillard's required Anderson to submit to an arbitration agreement as a condition of his employment. Anderson signed an acknowledgment of receipt of rules for arbitration, which provided:

"The arbitration process offers a quick and fair way to resolve disagreements related to employment. This Agreement contains the rules and procedures Dillard's and associates covered under the Agreement must follow to resolve any covered claims through arbitration. This Agreement does not waive anyone's substantive legal rights, nor does this Agreement create or destroy any rights. It merely changes the forum where the dispute is resolved and the procedures to be followed. Arbitration does not prevent an associate from filing a charge with an administrative agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"Effective immediately, all employees (as hereinafter defined) of Dillard's, Inc., its affiliates, subsidiaries and Limited Liability Partnerships (the 'Company') shall be subject to the rules of arbitration (the 'Rules') described below. Employees are deemed to have agreed to the provisions of the Rules by virtue of accepting employment with the Company and/or continuing employment therewith."

Dillard's permitted Anderson to select merchandise for purchase while he was working in the store. Dillard's expected Anderson to carry the items he wanted in a shopping bag and pay for them at the end of his shift. While Anderson was working on August 1, 2003, he selected merchandise to purchase valued at $111. Anderson claims that he intended to pay for the merchandise at the end of his shift but was distracted by a family emergency and inadvertently left the store with the shopping bag without paying for the merchandise. Overland Park police officers ...


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