Federal courts have diversity jurisdiction over a petition to compel arbitration of claims that are part of a pending state court action that includes one or more nondiverse parties not named in the petition, the Eighth Circuit has held. The matter arose on separate actions to compel arbitration of state law tort claims pursuant to arbitration agreements governed by the Federal Arbitration Act. The plaintiffs filed lawsuits in state court asserting tort claims against nursing home operators and the administrators of two nursing homes. The operators, but not the administrators, filed federal actions to compel arbitration, basing federal jurisdiction on diversity of citizenship between the operators, alleged to be Alabama citizens, and the state court plaintiffs, alleged to be Arkansas citizens.
The plaintiffs did not contest the citizenship allegations, and the district court granted petitions to compel arbitration. Thereafter, in Vaden v. Discover Bank, the Supreme Court held that a federal court entertaining a petition to compel arbitration based upon federal question jurisdiction should determine its jurisdiction by “looking through” a petition to the parties’ underlying substantive controversy. Relying on Vaden, the district court vacated the arbitration orders, concluding that while Vaden addressed only federal question jurisdiction, its “look through” analysis implicitly overruled prior federal cases compelling arbitration based upon diversity of citizenship. The Eighth Circuit reversed and reinstated the orders. There was no credible evidence in Vaden itself to suggest that “the otherwise on-point decisions” in Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital v. Mercury Construction Corp. and other precedents had been overruled. Northport Health Services of Arkansas, LLC v. Rutherford, No. 09-2433 (8th Cir. May 14, 2010).