United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTIONS TO VACATE AND
FOR DEFAULT, GRANTING DEFENDANT AIRBNB'S MOTION TO
CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD, AND GRANTING DEFENDANT
LACOMBE'S MOTION TO DISMISS
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant Airbnb, Inc's
(“Airbnb”) motion to confirm arbitration award
and enter judgment, Dkt. 77, Plaintiff Francis Du Ju's
(“Ju”) motion to vacate arbitration award, Dkt.
79, Defendant Maurice Lacombe's motion to dismiss, Dkt.
88, and Ju and Airbnb's cross motions for default, Dkts.
90, 91. The Court has considered the pleadings filed in
support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder
of the file and hereby rules as stated below.
FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The Parties & the State Proceedings
April 20, 2018, Ju filed a complaint asserting numerous
causes of action against Defendants the State of Washington
and John/Jane Doe Employees of the Court of Appeals, Division
II (“COA”), Lacombe, and Airbnb. Dkt. 1. Ju's
claims arise from a landlord-tenant dispute and subsequent
judicial actions involving that dispute. Id.
short, Ju rented a room from Lacombe in Vancouver, Washington
through Airbnb's rental platform. Dkt. 1. During Ju's
stay she and Lacombe disagreed about various issues typical
of a landlord-tenant relationship, such as rent payment and
amenity availability, and somewhat atypical issues, such as
Lacombe's alleged patronization of sex workers.
Id. Ju's occupancy of Lacombe's premises
continued for months, and he ultimately obtained a judgment
evicting her through an unlawful detainer action filed in
Clark County Superior Court for the State of Washington.
Id. Ju appealed the judgment to the COA, where she
raised additional claims relating to an alleged docketing
conspiracy perpetrated by Lacombe and court clerk employees.
See Lacombe v. Ju, 200 Wn.App. 1028 (2017)
(unpublished). The COA affirmed. Id. Ju then
commenced her suit here.
December 5, 2018, the Court issued an order granting a motion
to dismiss based on judicial and sovereign immunity and lack
of subject-matter jurisdiction brought by the State and the
John/Jane Doe court employees (collectively referenced in
prior orders and hereinafter as the “State
Defendants”). Dkt. 54. The Court concluded that any
amendment of Ju's claims against the State Defendants
would be futile because she attempted a de facto appeal
prohibited by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Id. The Court dismissed the claims against the State
Defendants with prejudice. Id. at 13. On June 28,
2019, the Court entered judgment in favor of the State
Defendants. Dkt. 76.
Court's December 5, 2018 Order also granted a motion to
compel arbitration brought by Airbnb. Id. at 13-14.
The Court concluded that a valid arbitration agreement
existed between Ju and Airbnb and that the agreement applied
to Ju's claims. Id. The Court stayed litigation
between Ju and Airbnb until arbitration was
“completed.” Id. at 14.
17, 2019, Airbnb filed the instant motion to confirm the
arbitration award and enter judgment dismissing all claims
with prejudice. Dkt. 77. Airbnb describes the arbitration
proceedings as follows:
Shortly after Airbnb filed its Motion to Compel Arbitration,
Ms. Du Ju settled all claims with Airbnb. Nonetheless, Ms. Du
Ju still commenced arbitration proceedings with the American
Arbitration Association on February 22, 2019. In those
proceedings, Airbnb filed a dispositive motion based, in
part, on the parties' settlement.
The Arbitrator, having considered the parties' fully
briefed arguments, granted Airbnb's dispositive motion on
July 7, 2019, and issued a final written arbitration Award.
The Award concluded that “Claimant's claims are
dismissed as previously settled and therefore the Arbitrator
does not award damages, fees, costs or expenses to
her.” The Award has not been modified, corrected, or
vacated. Ms. Du Ju has not served any notice of a motion to
vacate, modify, or correct the arbitration award, but has
said informally in an email and letter that she plans to seek
clarification of the Award and/or file a motion to vacate
under 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(3).
Dkt. 77 at 2 (internal citations omitted). The day after
Airbnb filed its motion to confirm the arbitration award, Ju
filed a motion to vacate it. Dkt. 79. On July 29, 2019,
Airbnb responded to Ju's motion, Dkt. 82, and Ju
responded to Airbnb's motion, Dkt. 83. On August 1, 2019,
Airbnb replied to Ju's motion. Dkt. 85. On August 2,
2019, Ju replied to Airbnb's motion. Dkt. 86.
Motion to Dismiss
April 19, 2019, the Court issued an order (“the April
19 Order”) denying a motion to dismiss brought by
Lacombe for procedural error. Dkt. 69. Within the April 19
Order, the Court construed Ju's response as a request for
leave to amend her complaint, see Dkt. 61 at 9,
11-13, which the Court granted, Dkt. 69 at 2-4. To the extent
that Ju sought to add to or clarify her claims against the
already-dismissed State Defendants, the Court denied leave to
amend. Id. at 2. The Court explained that it was
granting leave to amend against the remaining defendants
(Lacombe and Airbnb) because the factual basis for Ju's
claims against these defendants was confusing, leaving the
Court unable to assess subject-matter jurisdiction.
Id. at 4. As a result, the Court ordered Ju to file
an amended complaint by May 3, 2019 that specifically
explained how Lacombe allegedly acted in
interference with her rights on each claim. Id.
(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 540 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007). Because Airbnb and Ju had been compelled
to arbitration when the April 19 order issued, the Court
explained in a footnote that “[t]he litigation stay
between Ju and Airbnb remains operative should the amended
complaint require a responsive pleading from Airbnb.”
Dkt. 69 at 4 n.3.
Court approved an extension of the deadline for Ju's
amended complaint, and on July 30, 2019, Ju filed an amended
complaint (“FAC”) asserting claims against Airbnb
and Lacombe. Dkt. 84. On August 9, 2019, Lacombe filed a
motion to dismiss the FAC. Dkt. 88. On September 3, 2019, Ju
responded. Dkt. 89. Lacombe did not reply.
Cross-Motions for Default
September 5, 2019, Ju moved for default judgment against
Airbnb because Airbnb did not respond to the FAC. Dkt. 90.
Also on September 5, 2019, Airbnb responded, moved for
default, moved to strike Ju's motion, and requested fees
and costs associated with its filing. Dkt. 91. Also on
September 5, 2019, Ju replied. Dkt. 92.
moves to confirm the arbitration award and for entry of
judgment dismissing all claims against it with prejudice.
Dkts. 77, 91. Ju moves for an order vacating the arbitration
award, Dkt. 79, and for entry of default against Airbnb, Dkt.
90. Lacombe moves to dismiss the FAC. Dkt. 88.
Arbitration & Default Judgment
Motions to confirm and to vacate arbitration award
the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C.
§ 1 et seq., a Court must confirm an
arbitration award when a controversy has been arbitrated
pursuant to a valid arbitration provision and the award has
not been vacated, modified, or corrected. FAA § 9. In
this case, the Court previously found that a valid
arbitration provision existed and compelled the parties to
arbitration. Dkt. 54 at 13-14. The arbitrator in that
proceeding issued an award dismissing all claims against
Airbnb. Thus, this Court must confirm the award subject to
Ju's motion to vacate it. FAA § 9.
filed a dispositive motion in the arbitration based in part
on Ju's alleged settlement of claims against Airbnb prior
to the arbitration's commencement. Dkt. 79, Declaration
of Kathleen C. Bricken, at 3-6. In response, Ju asserted that
the settlement agreement was not valid because she sent a
letter to this Court advising of the settlement, asking for
approval of it, and requesting issuance of a settlement
order, which the Court took no action on. Id. at 4.
The arbitrator issued a written order ruling on the
settlement issue as follows:
on Dispositive Motion. Airbnb's motion to
dismiss is granted, and Ms. Du Ju's claims are dismissed
on the grounds that she settled all of her claims against
validity and enforceability of a settlement agreement are
determined by reference to the substantive law of contracts,
Stottlemyre v. Reed, 35 Wn.App. 169, 665 P.2d 1383
(1983). Accord, Veith v. Xterra Wetsuits, LLC, 144
Wn.App. 362, 183 P.3d 334 (2008). A contract exists when the
parties' intention is plain and the terms of a contract
are agreed upon, even if one or both parties contemplate
later execution of a writing. Id.
Ms. Du Ju made an offer of settlement to Airbnb. (Bricken
Decl. Ex. D.) She specified the manner and time of
acceptance. Id. Airbnb responded as specified,
before the expiration of the offer, and unequivocally
accepted the offer of settlement. Id. There was
consideration; namely mutual agreements that each party would
bear her or its own attorneys' fees and costs in
connection with litigation prior to the settlement.
Id. There was, therefore, a settlement.
settlement was not conditioned on a writing, and in any
event, Ms. Du Ju took the position that a writing prepared by
Airbnb's counsel was "exactly the same as what I
told the Honorable Benjamin H. Settle in my 8/23/18
letter." Response to Respondent Airbnb Inc.'s
Dispositive Motion to ...