Plaintiff sued in court to compel defendant to proceed with the arbitration of claims that plaintiff asserted in an arbitration. Granting defendant’s motion to dismiss, the District Court for the Northern District of Ohio held that whether plaintiff’s claims were arbitrable was a question for the arbitrator, not the Court, to decide. An arbitration clause in a contract between the parties provided that any dispute concerning the contract would be settled by an arbitration conducted pursuant to the Rules of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The plaintiff filed its lawsuit in response to the defendant’s application in the arbitration to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims on the grounds that the defendant had never consented to arbitrate such claims.
Claiming that defendant’s motion before the arbitrator was tantamount to a refusal to arbitrate, plaintiff petitioned the District Court to compel defendant, pursuant to Section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), to arbitrate the claims. Rejecting the plaintiff’s argument, the District Court held, among other things, that the parties had unmistakably agreed to refer issues of arbitrability to the arbitrator because the ICC’s Rules – which the parties provided would govern the arbitration – expressly empowered the arbitrator to determine whether a dispute falls within the scope of an agreement to arbitrate. Because the issue of arbitrability was within the exclusive domain of the arbitrator, the defendant’s challenge to the arbitrability of the claims was not “a refusal to arbitrate” within the meaning of the FAA. (Warren Steel Holdings LLC v. Williams, 2007 WL 2688240 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 11, 2007))