Recently, the California Court of Appeal ruled that an automobile dealership that translated a sales contract into Spanish, but neglected to include the arbitration clause in the translated agreement, could not enforce the arbitration agreement. In Ramos v. Westlake Services, LLC, Plaintiff Alfredo Ramos purchased a used automobile from Pena’s Motors, an agent for Defendants Westlake Services, LLC. While the automobile’s sales contract was in English, Pena’s Motors staff provided Ramos with what was purportedly a complete Spanish translation of the contract. However, the Spanish translation of the contract did not contain the arbitration clause. Ramos signed the English contract, which expressly stated that he had red and understood the arbitration clause.
Subsequently Ramos sued Westlake, claiming that an optional insurance policy he purchased with the automobile violated California’s unfair competition laws. Westlake moved to compel arbitration, pursuant to the clause contained in the sales contract. However, the Court held that even the strong public policy in favor of arbitration does not extend to those who are not parties to an arbitration agreement. Although Ramos signed the English version of the contract expressly certifying that he read and understood it, including the arbitration clause, the court reasoned the “circumstances of this case are not typical.” The Court held “there was no mutual assent” to arbitrate “because the arbitration agreement was hidden in the English Contract and not included” in the Spanish translation. Accordingly, because Westlake failed to provide the sales contract’s arbitration clause, it could not prove Ramose agreed to arbitration.
Thus, it is important that employers with arbitration agreements with employees who speak English as a second language provide those employees with the agreement in a language they can understand so they cannot later oppose arbitration should a dispute arise.