I have never watched the Kardashians’ reality television program. However, a recent decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals concerning the Kardashians did provide some entertainment value. Kimberly, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian appealed a decision by a district court that denied their motion to compel arbitration of a legal dispute involving claims for trademark infringement relating to a line of cosmetic products. The decision focused on whether the Kardashians could compel a party to submit their dispute to arbitration, pursuant to a contract that contained a provision requiring disputes between the parties to be submitted to arbitration. The Kardashians were not parties to the contract. The Kardashians’ attorneys argued, among other things, that there was a strong federal policy favoring the arbitration of disputes. They also argued that, pursuant to Florida’s doctrine of equitable estoppel, the Kardashians should be able to avail themselves of the arbitration clause because the opposing party was a signatory to the contract and a related dispute between the parties to the contract had been compelled to arbitration. Rejecting these arguments, the appellate court noted that the obligation to arbitrate is a matter of contract and, even under Florida’s doctrine of equitable estoppel, the claims asserted must fall within the scope of the clause that the signatories had agreed upon. The parties to the contract had only agreed to arbitrate disputes between the two parties to the contract and the appellate court would not re-write the contract to expand that provision. In its conclusion, the Court wrote:
“Like makeup, Florida’s doctrine of equitable estoppel can only cover so much. It does not provide a non-signatory with a scalpel to re-sculpt what appears on the face of the contract. The district court correctly denied the Kardashians’ motion to compel Kroma EU to arbitrate the dispute between them.”
This decision can be found at: Kroma Makeup EU, LLC v. Kimberly Kardashian et al, Case No. 15-15060 (11th Cir. 2017).