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Kevin A. Adamson, P.C. Gets Win for Client Against Belk, Proving Company Didn’t Follow the Rules

The team at Kevin A. Adamson, P.C. was recently able to secure a win in court for our client against a major department store.

The retailer Belk attempted to prosecute our client, Ms. Thrasher, for allegedly stealing from them. The criminal case was dismissed because there was no evidence against Ms. Thrasher. After not getting its way in criminal court, the corporation tried to bully Ms. Thrasher into arbitration to resolve her own claims against the company for malicious prosecution and negligent hiring and training. Fortunately, the court saw through Belk’s tactics and dismissed the company’s motion to compel arbitration.

Background on the Case

Ms. Thrasher worked for Belk. Belk prosecuted Ms. Thrasher for allegedly stealing from them. However, the criminal case was dismissed against her because there was no evidence.

After the criminal case was dismissed, Ms. Thrasher filed a complaint against the corporation on March 23, 2022. She stated the grounds of malicious prosecution and negligent hiring and training, seeking damages for the ordeal the corporation put her through.

Belk responded by trying to force Ms. Thrasher into arbitration. The company had previously sent out an Arbitration Agreement and an accompanying letter to its employees. The letter stated that if the employee did not opt out of the agreement, continuing to work for the company would constitute acceptance of the agreement. There were no instructions about how to opt out of the agreement, and employees were told they did not have to sign the agreement to be bound by it.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution. It is different from trying a case in court, which is a public forum. Instead, it is a confidential process, so the evidence presented in arbitration and the final ruling may not be shared with the public. Additionally, it takes the decision-making power away from the judge and jury and places it with a professional arbitrator who often sides with big businesses.

While arbitration has its place in the judicial system, it is sometimes used by corporations as a way to quiet employees who have been mistreated and remove their cases from the public eye so companies do not get bad publicity. Often, employers will require employees to sign pre-dispute arbitration agreements that make them agree to resolve their cases out of court before they even know what types of claims may arise. This well-known practice has led to a federal law prohibiting forced arbitration of sexual assault and sexual harassment cases.

Court’s Ruling

In the Thrasher case, the court refused to dismiss Ms. Thrasher’s claims against Belk or to force the parties into arbitration. It found that the Arbitration Agreement’s terms required employees to sign the document to be bound by it, and the instructions that employees later received misrepresented the terms of the agreement. In fact, the court found that the company’s letter that provided instructions regarding the Arbitration Agreement was meant to mislead employees into believing their signature was not necessary to make the Agreement effective. The court ultimately found that Belk did not follow the rules requiring arbitration and was trying to change the rules for their own benefit. Because Belk was responsible for the content in the Arbitration Agreement and the letter, it was bound by the terms it created. Therefore, the court dismissed the motion to compel arbitration.

Contact Kevin A. Adamson, P.C. for Help with Your Case

If you believe that you have been maliciously prosecuted or that a party has wrongfully tried to hold you to a pre-dispute Arbitration Agreement with questionable terms, reach out to a knowledgeable lawyer for help. Kevin A. Adamson, P.C. provides a free consultation to review your case.