St. Louis Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Busch Stadium volunteer who claimed wage violations loses appeal

By Sam Knef | Jul 14, 2017

Law money 05

ST. LOUIS — A man who volunteered to work at a Busch Stadium concession stand to raise funds for Washington University and later sued claiming violations of federal and state minimum wage law, has struck out at the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

In a ruling filed June 27, a three-judge panel upheld an Eastern District of Missouri order by Chief District Judge Catherine Perry compelling arbitration between plaintiff Matthew Leonard and Deleware North Companies Sport Service (DNCS).

According to background information in the ruling, Leonard had signed a one-page volunteer release, waiver and indemnification agreement three weeks before his volunteer service on May 30, 2013.

The waiver in part stated, “In consideration for being allowed to participate in certain volunteer fund raising and labor activities (the “Activity”) ... the Participant agrees ... to submit any dispute arising from the Activity to binding arbitration.”

Leonard had appealed Perry's order compelling arbitration, arguing that the agreement he signed "is void because it is unconscionable and lacks consideration," the ruling states.

Even if it were valid, he argued, his claim alleging fraud should not be governed by the arbitration provision.

Appeals court Judges Steven Colloton and Duane Benton, as well as Hydge John Gerrard, sitting by designation from the Northern District of Nebraska, disagreed.

"Leonard claims he was defrauded from the minimum wage," their ruling states. "This claim depends on whether he is a volunteer or an employee. Leonard’s underlying factual allegations touch matters covered by the arbitration provision."

Leonard was represented by Ryan Paulus of Kansas City and Jeremy Hollingshead of Clayton, both in the firm of Hollingshead and Paulus, as well as John Eccher, from the firm’s Clayton office.

Attorneys Douglas King, Kevin Sullivan, and Mark Bremer, all with Shands and Elbert in Clayton, represented DNCS. 

Leonard initially filed suit in Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City. He proposed a class action, as well as a collective action, under the national Fair Labor Standards Act. 

DNCS removed the suit to U.S. District Court for Western Missouri in Jefferson City and then moved for transfer to Eastern Missouri court in St. Louis.

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U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit