New York’s First Department finds there was no clear manifestation parties had abandoned a forum selection clause by a later agreement which mandated arbitration in London. In 2000, the parties entered into two agreements: (1) the Quennington Agreement (with a U.S. forum selection clause); and, (2) the First Aurdeley Agreement (with an England forum selection clause). In 2009, the parties entered into two more agreements: (1) the Second Aurdeley Agreement (with an arbitration clause), which referenced both of the 2000 agreements and a merger clause, but only expressly terminated the First Aurdeley Agreement; and (2) the Quennington Termination Agreement (with an arbitration clause), which terminated the Quennington Agreement.
Plaintiffs commenced a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court for breach of fiduciary duty and breaches of the various agreements. Defendants moved for a stay of the action and an order compelling arbitration in London, as some of the claims arose under the 2009 agreements which both provided for arbitration. Alternatively, Defendants argued “only an arbitration tribunal could determine whether the forum selection clause” controlled.
On appeal, the Plaintiffs argued the claims alleged in the complaint related to conduct under the 2000 Quennington Agreement – which provided for litigation in the United States – and that they did not nullify the agreement’s forum selection clause “since they did not explicitly disavow it.” The Court agreed: “[t]he mere termination of a contract containing such a clause does not mean that the clause is not still effective”. At best, the parties intended only to arbitrate disputes that arose after 2009, when the agreements containing arbitration clauses were entered into. The Court also found the legal relationship established by the 2000 agreements survived, and since the complaint alleges a breach of fiduciary duty born out of that relationship, the forum selection clause survived. Moreover, any claims under the 2009 agreements were “inextricably bound together” with any claims subject to arbitration, and thus litigation of all claims was appropriate. Lastly, as to the issue of arbitrability, that question is for the court, as the parties did not “clearly and unmistakably” agree that the arbitrators should decide that issue.
Garthon Business Inc., et al. v. Kirill Ace Stein, et al., Index No. 653715/14 (N.Y.A.D. 1st Dep’t April 26, 2016).