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Monday, May 2, 2016

Espejo v. Southern California Permanente Med. Group: Defendants Properly Authenticated Electronically Signed Arbitration Agreement

In Espejo v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group (Cal.App. 4/22/16), Jay Espejo, M.D., sued Southern California Permanente Medical Group (SCPMG) and others for wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation. The trial court denied defendants' motion to compel arbitration based on an electronically signed arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeal reversed, holding as follows: 

Defendants were not required to authenticate the arbitration agreement until Espejo challenged it. A party petitioning to compel arbitration must make a prima facie showing that an agreement exists, but not that it is enforceable. Only after the party opposing the petition challenges the agreement's authenticity does the petitioner bear the burden of proving it. As a result, the trial court erred in striking a supplemental declaration - not filed with the moving papers - that defendants used to authenticate the arbitration agreement. 

Defendants met their burden of authenticating Espejo's electronic signature on the arbitration agreement. 
[Defendants' declarant] detailed SCPMG’s security precautions regarding transmission and use of an applicant’s unique user name and password, as well as the steps an applicant would have to take to place his or her name on the signature line of the employment agreement and the [arbitration agreement]. Based on this procedure, she concluded that the “name Jay Baniaga Espejo could have only been placed on the signature pages of the employment agreement and the [arbitration agreement] by someone using Dr. Espejo’s unique user name and password. . . . [¶] Given this process for signing documents and protecting the privacy of the information with unique and private user names and passwords, the electronic signature was made by Dr. Espejo” on the employment agreement and the [arbitration agreement] at the date, time, and IP address listed on the documents.
The opinion is available here

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