Clearly Determining in Contract Who Determines Arbitrability of Dispute

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The positives and negatives of arbitration should be considered during the contract negotiation process when dealing with the dispute resolution process in the contract.

April 26, 2021
David Adelstein - Florida Construction Legal Updates

As you know from prior postings: “Arbitration provisions are creatures of contract and must be construed ‘as a matter of contract interpretation.’ ” Fallang Family Limited Partnership v. Privcap Companies, LLC, 46 Fla.L.Weekly D639e (Fla. 4th DCA 2021) (citation omitted). Thus, if you prefer to arbitrate potential disputes, instead of litigating potential disputes, you want to include an arbitration provision in your contract. While there are positives and negatives to arbitration, no different than litigation, these positives and negatives should be considered during the contract negotiation process when dealing with the dispute resolution process in the contract.

Generally, under the law, the arbitrability of a dispute is determined by the court. However, this can be deferred to the arbitrator with clear and unmistakable language in the contract.

By way of example, the American Arbitration Association includes a rule that allows an arbitrator to rule on the arbitrability of the dispute, i.e., the claims asserted are subject to the governing arbitration provision in the contract. Recent law has suggested that if the objective is to authorize an American Arbitration Association arbitrator to make this determination, the contract clearly and unmistakably needs to state this intent and generally referring to the American Arbitration Association rules is not good enough. For this reason, I have included in arbitration provisions language that specifically states, “In the event of any dispute as to the arbitrability of any claim or dispute, the parties agree that an appointed arbitrator within the American Arbitration Association shall make this determination.” I have also included in arbitration provisions the converse so that if there is a dispute as to the arbitrability of a claim or dispute, the court, and not the arbitrator, will make this determination.

Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com



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