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Posts Tagged ‘Arbitration Agreement’

Jury Trial | Application to Compel Arbitration | Businessperson’s Federal Arbitration Act FAQ Guide | Nuts and Bolts of Pre-Award Federal Arbitration Act Practice under Sections 2, 3, and 4 (Part IV)

April 28th, 2020 Application to Compel Arbitration, Arbitrability | Existence of Arbitration Agreement, Arbitration Law, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Challenging Arbitration Agreements, Existence of Arbitration Agreement, FAA Chapter 1, Gateway Disputes, Gateway Questions, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Arbitration, Pre-Award Federal Arbitration Act Litigation 1 Comment »
Trial Application to Compel Arbitration

This segment of the Businessperson’s Federal Arbitration Act FAQ Guide discusses the provisions of Section 4 relating to the jury trial of arbitrability issues.

The last instalment discussed the following FAQs related to Section 4 applications to compel arbitration:

  1. How does a Federal Court “Hear” an Application to Compel Arbitration? 
  2. In what Federal Court may an Application to Compel Arbitration be Filed?

This segment addresses the FAQ “What Happens when a Court Determines there is a Genuine Issue of Material Fact Concerning the Making of the Arbitration Agreement or the Failure, Neglect, or Refusal to Perform that Agreement?”  

What Happens when a Court Determines there is a Genuine Issue of Material Fact Concerning the Making of the Arbitration Agreement or the Failure, Neglect, or Refusal to Perform that Agreement?

In the last post we explained that district courts adjudicate applications to compel by applying a standard akin to that which applies to summary judgment motions. Courts therefore ascertain whether there are any genuine issues of material fact in dispute. If the material facts are not in dispute, then the Court determines whether the motion should be granted or denied by applying the law to the undisputed facts.

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Provider Rules: Should I Agree to Arbitrate under Them?

March 23rd, 2020 American Arbitration Association, Arbitrability, Arbitrability | Clear and Unmistakable Rule, Arbitrability | Existence of Arbitration Agreement, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration and Mediation FAQs, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Arbitration Provider Rules, Arbitration Providers, Arbitration Risks, Arbitrator Selection and Qualification Provisions, Authority of Arbitrators, Businessperson's FAQ Guide to the Federal Arbitration Act, Clear and Unmistakable Rule, Delegation Agreements, Drafting Arbitration Agreements, Evident Partiality, Existence of Arbitration Agreement, FAA Chapter 1, First Options Reverse Presumption of Arbitrability, Gateway Disputes, Gateway Questions, Practice and Procedure 1 Comment »
provider rules

Should your business agree to arbitrate under arbitration provider rules? Well, that depends.

Ideally, you should review those rules to see what they say, and discuss them with a knowledgeable and experienced arbitration attorney, or perhaps with another businessperson who has meaningful experience arbitrating under them. If, after doing your due diligence, you’re satisfied with the rules, understand how they might materially affect your arbitration experience, and are prepared to accept the consequences, then you may want to agree. If not, then you need to consider other options.

Granted, most of us do not bother to review arbitration rules before agreeing to arbitrate, or even to consult briefly with someone who is familiar with how they work in practice. And that can lead to some surprises, some of which may be unpleasant.

Here’s a nonexclusive list of a few things to keep in mind when considering whether to agree to arbitrate under arbitration provider rules:

  1. Agreeing to arbitrate under arbitration rules generally makes those rules part of your agreement, which means they are binding on you like any other part of your arbitration agreement;
  2. Arbitration provider rules generally provide that “arbitrability” issues—i.e., issues about the validity, enforceability, or scope of the arbitration agreement—must be decided by the arbitrator, not the court;
  3. They will govern not only the procedures to be used in the arbitration, but key substantive issues, such as arbitrator selection, arbitrator qualifications, and the number of arbitrators;
  4. They may empower the arbitration provider to resolve, at least in the first instance, questions about arbitrator impartiality, questions that one would otherwise reasonably expect were within the exclusive province of a court;
  5. They may determine whether your arbitration is placed on an expedited or complex-case track; and
  6. They may contain information about arbitration provider fees, which may be steeper than you anticipated.

And this list is by no means comprehensive.

Do any of these things really matter in business arbitration? They do, and to take but a single example, let’s look at how agreeing to provider rules may result in your business forefeiting its right to have a court decide disputes about the validity, enforceability, or scope of the arbitration agreement.

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Businessperson’s Federal Arbitration Act FAQ Guide II: Three Threshold Questions about the Federal Arbitration Act

January 21st, 2020 Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Businessperson's FAQ Guide to the Federal Arbitration Act, Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, FAA Chapter 1, FAA Chapter 2, FAA Chapter 3, FAA Preemption of State Law, Federal Arbitration Act Enforcement Litigation Procedure, Federal Arbitration Act Section 1, Federal Arbitration Act Section 2, Federal Arbitration Act Section 4, Federal Courts, Federal Question, Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration, New York Arbitration Law (CPLR Article 75), New York Convention, Nuts & Bolts: Arbitration, Panama Convention, Practice and Procedure, Rights and Obligations of Nonsignatories, Small Business B-2-B Arbitration, State Arbitration Law, State Arbitration Statutes, State Courts, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Supreme Court 1 Comment »
Federal Arbitration Act | Arbitrator

This second instalment of the Businessperson’s Federal Arbitration Act FAQ Guide addresses three threshold questions pertinent to the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA” or “Federal Arbitration Act”):

1. Does Chapter 1 of the FAA apply to my arbitration agreement?

2. Assuming it does, will a federal district court have subject matter jurisdiction over FAA litigation concerning the agreement or any awards made under it?

3. Does the Federal Arbitration Act apply in state court?

Does Chapter 1 of the FAA Apply to My Arbitration Agreement?

If your written arbitration agreement is contained in a maritime contract or a contract affecting commerce, or concerns a dispute arising out of such a contract, then it falls under Chapter 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act, unless it falls within Section 1’s exemption for contracts of employment of transportation workers engaged in interstate commerce. (See here.) It may also fall under Chapters 2 or 3 of the FAA, which implement the New York and Panama Conventions.

In our first instalment of this FAQ guide (here) we explained that Federal Arbitration Act Section 2, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, applies to written, pre-dispute arbitration agreements in: (a) “maritime contract[s]” (“Maritime Contracts”); or (b) “contract[s] evidencing a transaction involving commerce. . . .” (“Contracts Affecting Commerce”). It also applies to written post-dispute arbitration agreements “to settle by arbitration a controversy thereafter arising out of such [Maritime Contracts or Contracts Affecting Commerce], or the refusal to perform the whole or any part thereof. . . .” 9 U.S.C. § 2; see Allied-Bruce Terminix Cos. v. Dobson, 513 U.S. 265, 273-282 (1995)Citizens Bank v. Alafabco, Inc., 539 U.S. 52, 55-58 (2003).

Section 2’s requirement that an arbitration agreement be “written” seems simple enough, and, for the most part, it is, at least in wholly domestic arbitrations to which Chapters 2 or 3 of the FAA do not concurrently apply. But there are some caveats.

First, just because a contract is required to be “written” doesn’t necessarily mean the arbitration agreement must be signed. The arbitration agreement between the parties need only be in writing, although the arbitration-agreement proponent would need to show that the parties assented to the writing.

For example, suppose A agrees to provide services for B and further agrees that any disputes arising out of or relating to their agreement will be submitted to arbitration. A and B proceed to memorialize their agreement in a writing, including the agreement to arbitrate, spelling out the essential terms of their agreement. While the writing is not signed or initialed, both parties agree that it reflects the essential terms of the parties’ bargain. The written memorialization of the agreement is sufficient to establish a “written” agreement, even though it is not signed by the party opposing its enforcement. 

Second, provided there is a written agreement between at least two parties,  persons who are not parties to that agreement (“nonparties”) may, in appropriate circumstances, enforce the agreement or be bound by it if general principles of state law permit that result. Such general principles include “‘assumption, piercing the corporate veil, alter ego, incorporation by reference, third-party beneficiary theories, waiver and estoppel[.] . . .’” . Arthur Andersen LLP v. Carlisle, 556 U.S. 624, 631 (2009) (citations omitted). This Term the United States Supreme Court is to determine whether such principles apply in cases governed by Chapter 2.

As respects whether a “contract” “evidenc[es] a transaction involving commerce,” the U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted Section 2 broadly to mean the Federal Arbitration Act applies to arbitration agreements in contracts or transactions that “affect” commerce, that is, to any contract or transaction that Congress could regulate in the full exercise of its Commerce Clause powers. See Allied-Bruce, 513 U.S. at 281-82; U.S. Const. Art. I, § 8, Cl. 3 (giving Congress power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes”).

Whether a contract “affects” commerce depends on the facts concerning, among other things, the parties, the contract’s subject matter, and the actual or contemplated transactions constituting the contract’s performance or contemplated performance. See Alafabco, 539 U.S. at 56-57. A party does not have to demonstrate that the contract has a “specific” or “substantial” “effect upon interstate commerce if in the aggregate the economic activity in question would represent a general practice subject to federal control.” Id. (citations and quotations omitted).  The question is whether the “aggregate economic activity in question” “bear[s] on interstate commerce in a substantial way.” Id. at 57.

Assuming that Chapter 1 of the FAA Applies to my Arbitration Agreement, Will a Federal District Court have Subject Matter jurisdiction over FAA Litigation Concerning the Agreement or any Awards Made under it?

Not necessarily. Unless an arbitration agreement also falls under Chapters 2 or 3 of the FAA, then there must be an independent basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction.

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The Texas Supreme Court Says Court – Not Arbitrator — Gets to Decide Lack of Capacity Issue Notwithstanding the Severability Doctrine

July 21st, 2009 Arbitrability, Authority of Arbitrators, Texas Supreme Court Comments Off on The Texas Supreme Court Says Court – Not Arbitrator — Gets to Decide Lack of Capacity Issue Notwithstanding the Severability Doctrine

Karl Bayer’s and Victoria VanBuren’s Texas-based  Disputing blog recently reported on In re Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc., __ S.W.3d __ (Texas 2009) (No. 07-0665), in which the Texas Supreme Court held that whether a contracting party had the capacity to enter into a contract containing an arbitration agreement was for the court to decide, notwithstanding that, under the severability (a/k/a “separability”) doctrine, a challenge to the validity or enforceability of a contract as a whole, including the arbitration agreement, is generally for the arbitrators to decide under a broad arbitration clause.  Ms. VanBuren did an excellent job summarizing the case and explaining its significance in her post, “Texas Supreme Court Holds that the Court, not the Arbitrator Should Decide the Issue of Capacity to Contract,” and we recommend that anyone interested in learning more about the case read her thoughtful and nicely-written post. 

Morgan Stanley illustrates that the severability doctrine —  first espoused by the United States Supreme Court in Prima Paint v. Conklin Mfg. Corp., 388 U.S. 395, 403-04 (1967) and later clarified in Buckeye Check Cashing v. Cardengna, 546 U.S. 440, 449 (2006) — is not without its limits.  Severability is a legal fiction, which Courts apply for the purpose of determining whether arbitrators have the authority to determine certain disputes concerning the enforceability or validity of a contract containing an arbitration clause.  It deems the arbitration clause to be an agreement which stands on its own footing from the contract in which it is contained.  Continue Reading »

ReliaStar Life Insurance Co. v. EMC National Life Co.: Critical Analysis of an Important Reinsurance Arbitration Decision

April 28th, 2009 Arbitrability, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Life Reinsurance, New York Court of Appeals, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit 3 Comments »

Introduction

We recently reported on ReliaStar Life Ins. Co. v. EMC National Life Co., ___ F.3d ___, ___ (2009) (Raggi, J.) (blogged here), in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that an arbitration panel was authorized to award under the bad faith exception to the American Rule attorney and arbitrator fees to a ceding company in a case where the parties had agreed that “[e]ach party shall bear the expense of its own arbitrator.  .  .  and related outside attorneys’ fees, and shall jointly and equally bear with the other party the expenses of the third arbitrator.”  This post takes a critical look at ReliaStar.  

The Second Circuit is one of the most influential and respected  Circuit Courts of Appeal in the United States, yet on occasion even this prestigious court renders a decision that is open to question.  ReliaStar is one of those decisions.  The majority opinion lost sight of what the parties agreed about the arbitrators’ power to award attorney fees.  Rather than adhere to the plain meaning of the parties’ agreement as required by New York  law, the Court construed an unambiguous limitation on arbitral authority to mean something other than what it said. 

No doubt that the Court believed that its decision would encourage resort to arbitration by construing arbitral authority broadly.  But the Court would have done a far better job encouraging resort to arbitration had it simply enforced the parties’ agreement as written.  One of the most attractive features of arbitration is that parties get to dictate how they want their dispute decided, including, among other things, how best to allocate the costs, fees and expenses of deciding it.   But that feature falls by the wayside if courts cannot be relied upon to enforce arbitration agreements as written.  Continue Reading »

What does the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 Have to Say About Commercial and Industry Arbitration Involving Sophisticated Parties? (Part IIIC)

April 11th, 2009 Arbitrability, Authority of Arbitrators, Legislative Developments, United States Supreme Court 1 Comment »

Part IIIC:  Is the Narrow Construction Sustainable?

Introduction

In Part IIIB  (here) we discussed in general terms the “Narrow Construction” of the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2009 (the “Fairness Act”), which would limit the scope of Proposed Section 2(c) to situations where the party resisting arbitration claims that the arbitration agreement requires predispute arbitration of consumer, franchise, employment or statutory civil rights disputes.   We also set forth the five premises on which the Narrow Construction is based.  This Part IIIC addresses the validity of those premises.  [Because this post  frequently refers to Proposed Section 2 and its subsections, we have reproduced at the end the pertinent parts of Proposed Section 2.]

 The Narrow Construction is fairly complex.  A court choosing it would have to determine each of its five premises to be valid.  In addition, the validity of Premise 3 is interlinked to that of Premise 5:  Premise 3 is easier to accept when viewed without regard to Premise 5 and Premise 5 is harder to accept when viewed in isolation from Premise 3.  If a court believes that Premise 3 is reasonable, but has reservations about its validity, when it considers Premise 3 in conjunction with Premise 5, it may conclude that both are invalid.  But if it is confident that Premise 3 is valid, that confidence might lead it to conclude that Premise 5 is valid.  These are important considerations that a party advocating one construction or the other should take into account in structuring its argument.   Continue Reading »