The Sixth Circuit has declined to rule on a motion to vacate an arbitration award, which was brought at the same time as a successful motion to dismiss the action for forum non conveniens, when the district court had not decided that motion. The Court found that no exceptional circumstances existed that would justify ruling on an issue not addressed by the district court and that, given its other ruling, the district court was correct not to address the motion.
The case was initially brought in federal court in Tennessee by Milan Express, which alleged various claims against Applied Underwriters relating to an agreement to provide workers’ compensation coverage. The parties later agreed to submit the matter to arbitration, but the arbitration panel determined that the arbitration clause in the parties’ agreement was unenforceable. Returning to federal court, Applied Underwriters filed two motions: a motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens and a motion to vacate the arbitration award. The district court granted the motion to dismiss but did not rule on the motion to vacate. Applied Underwriters appealed, claiming that the court’s non-ruling on the motion to vacate was “in effect a denial of the motion.” Applied Underwriters further contended that the arbitrators, in finding the arbitration clause unenforceable, “exceeded their powers and acted with manifest disregard for the law,” and that both parties agreed that this presented a pure question of law that the Sixth Circuit could decide. The Court disagreed, however, finding that the district court’s silence could not be construed as confirming the validity of the arbitration award, an issue the district court was constrained not to decide once it decided that the Nebraska courts had exclusive jurisdiction over the case. Milan Express Co., Inc. v. Applied Underwriters Captive Risk Assurance Co., Inc., No. 16-5270 (6th Cir. Dec. 2, 2016)