In late May, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court decision to lift an arbitration stay for Plaintiff Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“Pre-Paid”) as Defendant Todd Cahill (“Cahill”) failed to pay his respective share of the arbitration fees.

Pre-Paid sells legal service contracts whereby members deal with a network of attorneys. Cahill was a sales associate for Pre-Paid. His employment contract contained an arbitration provision as well as several non-compete provisions. Pre-Paid sued Cahill alleging that Cahill used information from his prior employment to recruit new associates after he left the company. Cahill removed the state filed action to federal court whereby the action was stayed pending arbitration. Cahill failed to pay his respective share of the arbitration fees, however, and the arbitration was cancelled. On appeal, Pre-Paid argued that the appellate court did not have jurisdiction to hear the appeal. Cahill argued that arbitration must be heard on the merits before any stay could be lifted.

Federal arbitration laws requires a court to stay an action pending arbitration provided that “the applicant for the stay is not in default in proceeding with the arbitration.” The court reasoned that Cahill’s failure to pay the required arbitration fees made him in default and therefore the federal stay guarantee should not apply. The court also found that they had jurisdiction to review the district court’s lift to stay the proceedings, citing to circuit court and supreme court authorities.

Pre-Paid Legal Serv., Inc. v. Cahill, No. 14-7032, (10th Cir. May 26, 2015)