Aspic Eng’g & Constr. Co. v. ECC Centcom Constructors LLC, No. 17-16510, 2019 BL 26363 (9th Cir. Jan. 28, 2019)

Aspic Engineering and Construction Company (“Aspic”), a local Afghan subcontractor, entered into multiple subcontracts with ECC Centcom Constructors and ECC International (“ECC”), the prime contractor, to construct buildings and facilities in Afghanistan.  The subcontracts contained terms and conditions “applicable to all U.S. Government subcontracts,” and mandated that Aspic owed ECC the same obligations that ECC owed to the federal government.  The subcontracts also incorporated multiple Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) clauses, including FAR 49.2 through 49.6, which govern the recovery of expenses in the event a contractor is terminated for convenience, i.e. required documentation and procedures.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Finds Arbitration Award Is ‘Irrational’ Because It Disregards the Contract’s Plain Text Simply to Reach a Just Result

Univ. of Iowa Bd. of Regents v. Am. Arbitration Ass’n, No. 17-0949, 2019 BL 7069 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 09, 2019)

Modern Piping, Inc. (“Modern Piping”) and the University of Iowa, Board of Regents, and State of Iowa (“University”) entered into two construction contracts, both containing arbitration provisions.  Disputes arose related to each contract and Modern Piping filed a demand for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (AAA).  The University filed an action against AAA, seeking to enjoin it from arbitrating the disputes.  AAA filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that arbitral immunity doctrine applied.  The district court granted AAA’s motion and the University appealed.

The doctrine of arbitral immunity provides that arbitrators are immune from liability for acts performed in their arbitral capacity and generally shields all functions which are integrally related to the arbitral process.  The doctrine applies to a claim against an arbitrator where the claim effectively seeks to challenge the decisional act of an arbitrator or arbitration panel.  The immunity extends to associations administering arbitration procedures.

Continue Reading The Doctrine of Arbitral Immunity Applied to an Arbitral Organization Absent a Showing of Clear Lack of Jurisdiction

Maxum Indemnity Co. v. Robbins Co., P.C., No. 1:17-CV-01968, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57729 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 28, 2018)

On March 21, 2018, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings in favor of Maxum Indemnity Co. and declared that Maxum has no duty to defend or indemnify The Robbins Company in an international arbitration initiated by a third-party, JCM Northlink, LLC.

Robbins is a designer, manufacturer, and supplier of tunnel-boring machines (“TBMs”) and was engaged by JCM to supply a TBM for Seattle’s Northgate Link Extension project to add additional light rail lines to the city’s existing public transportation system.  Maxum insured Robbins under two commercial general liability policies in connection with the Northgate Link Extension project.

Continue Reading Boring Through the Details: U.S. District Court Declares Boring Company Dispute Not Covered by Insurance Policies

SM Architects, PLLC v. AMX Veteran Specialty Servs., LLC, 2018 Tex. App. LEXIS 9203 (November 8, 2018)

AMX Veteran Specialty Services, LLC (“AMX”) filed a demand for arbitration alleging professional negligence against SM Architects, PLLC (“SMA”).  A Texas statute requires a plaintiff in an action or arbitration involving architectural services to file a certificate of merit affidavit by a third-party licensed architect in support of its claims.  AMX attempted to meet this requirement by attaching an unsigned letter by an architect to its demand.

AMX twice amended its demand.  It attached to its second amended demand a signed certificate of merit affidavit by the same architect.  The affidavit was substantially similar to the original unsigned letter, but with added information regarding SMA’s alleged negligence.

SMA moved to dismiss AMX’s claims for failure to comply with the certificate of merit requirement.  SMA argued that the unsigned letter submitted with AMX’s first demand for arbitration was not an affidavit, and that the affidavit filed with its second amended demand was ineffective because its failure to file an affidavit contemporaneously with the first-filed complaint could not be cured by amendment.  The arbitration panel denied SMA’s motion.
Continue Reading Although Texas Statute Expressly Allows an Immediate Interlocutory Appeal of Any Decision Granting or Denying a Motion to Dismiss Based Upon the Certificate of Merit Requirement, There Is No Jurisdiction for an Interlocutory Appeal of an Arbitrator’s Decision on That Issue

Paulozzi v. Parkview Custom Homes, L.L.C., 2018 Ohio App. Lexis 4739 ( Nov. 1, 2018)  

 This case arose out of a dispute between homeowners and their contractor.  Dissatisfied with the work, the Paulozzis sued their contractor, Parkview Custom Homes, alleging, inter alia, breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and fraud.  In response, Parkview moved to stay the litigation and compel arbitration under the agreement’s arbitration provision.

The parties did not dispute that the contract required the Paulozzis to proceed through arbitration.  But the contract also specified that “the arbitration shall be conducted under the auspices of the Ohio Arbitration and Mediation Center in accordance with its rules, at Cleveland, Ohio.”  However, when the Paulozzis filed suit, the OAMC appeared to be defunct.

The Paulozzis argued that because the chosen forum no longer existed, the arbitration provision was unenforceable.  In response, Parkview maintained that the essential purpose of the arbitration provision was still capable of substantial accomplishment, and that the court should enforce it.  In the end, the trial court held that the original forum was defunct, and because the arbitration provision did not provide for an alternative forum, it was unenforceable under the doctrine of impossibility.  On appeal, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed.
Continue Reading Parties Must Proceed to Arbitration Despite Unavailability of Arbitration Forum Specifically Named in the Contract

Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC v. Converteam SAS, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 24671 (11th Cir. Aug. 30, 2018)

On August 30, 2018, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision to compel arbitration between an Alabama steel plant owner and a French division of General Electric Co.  The case is noteworthy because the Court settled two questions of law within the Eleventh Circuit about the interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “Convention”) and the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”). The first question concerned the interpretation the FAA’s grant of removal jurisdiction to the federal courts.  The second concerned whether an entity could compel arbitration under the Convention despite the lack of a signed arbitration agreement.

Outokumpu Stainless, LLC (“OS”) operates a steel plant in Calver, Alabama that contains three cold rolling mills.  In 2007, OS entered into three separate agreements with an entity known as Fives for the purchase of the mills.  The Agreements each contained an arbitration clause which required all disputes be resolved via arbitration in Germany under the Rules of Arbitration of the ICC.  The Agreements also provided that Fives, and all of its subcontractors, would be treated as one and the same under the contracts.

Fives subcontracted with GE Energy (“GE”) to produce motors for the mills.  The motors were installed between 2011 and 2012.  By June 2014 they began to fail.
Continue Reading Deciding Arbitrability and Arbitration Agreements: Eleventh Circuit Refines Its Interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act and United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards

Charlotte Student Hous. DST v. Choate Constr. Co., 2018 NCBC LEXIS 88 (N.C. Super. Ct. Aug. 24, 2018).

This case arose from the construction of a student apartment complex known as Arcadia.  The plaintiffs, Arcadia’s current owner and landlord, asserted breach of warranty, negligence, and fraud claims against Arcadia’s original owner, the architect, the general contractor, and two subcontractors, alleging that defects in Arcadia’s design and construction caused millions of dollars in repairs and lost rent.

The general contractor, Choate Construction Company, and its geotechnical engineering subcontractor, Geoscience Group, moved to dismiss all claims asserted against them on the ground that they were subject to arbitration.  Choate and Geoscience pointed to arbitration clauses in their contracts with the original owner, both of which required all claims “arising out of or related to” those contracts to be arbitrated before the AAA in accordance with its Construction Industry Arbitration Rules.

The plaintiffs argued that the arbitration clauses were not binding on them because the contracts that contained them were not assigned to plaintiffs when they purchased Arcadia. They also argued that their tort claims were not subject to the arbitration clauses.
Continue Reading Arbitration by Estoppel: North Carolina Court Holds That Arbitration Clauses Bind Nonsignatories Who Seek to Enforce the Contracts in Which the Clauses Appear

Ambac Assur. Corp v. Knox Hills LLC, 2018 Ky. App. Lexis 188 (June 15, 2018)

This case involves a February 1, 2007 design/build agreement governing the rights of the several parties involved with a military housing construction and renovation project at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Knox Hills, LLC (the owner) filed a breach of contract action against Ambac Assurance Corporation (the senior lender of the project) relating to what it characterized as Ambac’s wrongful withholding of consent to a change order that would have substantially reduced the scope of the project.  Knox Hills then sought an order staying the proceedings and compelling Ambac to arbitrate.  The circuit court granted the motion and, following an arbitration, entered an order confirming the arbitrator’s award in favor of Knox Hills.  Ambac then appealed the court’s order.

On appeal, the Kentucky Court of Appeals focused on two questions:  (1) whether the court or the arbitrator should have determined whether arbitration was required between Knox Hills and Ambac, and (2) whether arbitration was actually required.
Continue Reading Kentucky Court of Appeals Draws a Distinction Between Substantive and Procedural Questions of Arbitrability, and Explains the Proper Role for the Courts

United States Home Corp. v. Ballesteros Trust, 2018 Nev. LEXIS 28 (Nev. Apr. 12, 2018)

United States Home Corporation (“U.S.H.”) built homes in a Nevada common-interest community, subject to a Covenant, Conditions, and Restrictions agreement (“CC&R”), which provided that any dispute would be resolved by arbitration.

Between August 2013 and February 2015, twelve home purchasers filed pre-litigation notices against U.S.H. for alleged construction defects.  Three of the purchasers had direct purchase and sales agreements with U.S.H. that contained arbitration clauses; the remaining homeowners did not sign such agreements, but took title subject to the CC&R.  U.S.H. demanded arbitration, but the homeowners brought claims in a Nevada district court seeking damages for breach of contract and other claims.  U.S.H. moved to compel arbitration.  The court held that the transaction did not involve interstate commerce, so the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) did not apply, and invalidated the arbitration agreements as unconscionable.


Continue Reading Nevada Supreme Court Rules That Arbitration Clause in Common-Interest Community’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions Binds Homeowners  

Transocean Offshore Gulf of Guinea VII Ltd. v. Erin Energy Corp., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39494 (S.D. Tex. Mar. 12, 2018)

On March 12, 2018, in Transocean Offshore Gulf of Guinea VII Ltd. v. Erin Energy Corp., the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas became the second U.S. court to recently determine that the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”), as codified in the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), applies to consent awards.  Although seemingly inconsequential at first glance, the question of whether consent awards—i.e., settlement agreements recorded by arbitral tribunals as awards—are subject to the New York Convention, has remained the subject of much debate within the field of international arbitration for many years.

In Transocean, the petitioners, Transocean Offshore Gulf of Guinea VII Limited and Indigo Drilling Limited, entered into an agreement to provide drilling equipment, personnel, and services in the waters off the coast of Nigeria to the respondent, Erin Energy Corporation.  Prior to the completion of the contract, a dispute arose and, pursuant to an arbitration clause, the petitioners initiated an arbitration under the rules of the London Court of International Arbitration (“LCIA”).  Before the tribunal made a decision on the merits, the parties reached a settlement and, at the parties’ request, the tribunal issued a consent award setting forth the terms of the parties’ settlement.


Continue Reading Are Consent Awards Under the New York Convention Enforceable in U.S. Courts? Federal Court in Texas Says Yes