In a dispute between the parties to an agreement containing a broad arbitration clause, the district court determined that disputes regarding the applicable law and venue for the arbitration were matters for the arbitrator to decide, and, accordingly, dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit seeking a declaration that the arbitration must proceed in Virginia under Virginia law.
The Court first ruled that under the Federal Arbitration Act, a district court’s role in litigation involving issues to compel arbitration potentially covered by an arbitration clause is limited to determining whether (i) the agreement to arbitrate is valid, and (ii) the dispute is within the scope of the arbitration agreement. The Court then examined the arbitration provision at issue, which required that “any dispute shall be finally resolved by binding arbitration,” that “unless contrary to applicable law . . . the arbitration shall apply . . . the substantive law of the state of Illinois,” and that “arbitration shall be held at such location as is required by applicable law, or if no location is required by applicable law, at Chicago.”
The Court determined that these provisions demonstrated both the parties’ agreement to arbitrate and their clear intention that the arbitrator, and not a court, determine the choice of law and venue issues. The provision’s requirement that “any disputes” be determined by arbitration contained no language that supported the plaintiff’s claim that the parties intended to submit to the courts disputes over venue and choice of law. (J.W. Burress, Inc. v. John Deere Constr. & Forestry Co., 2007 WL 3023975 (W.D. Va. Oct. 15, 2007)).