Kentucky Court of Appeals Draws a Distinction Between Substantive and Procedural Questions of Arbitrability, and Explains the Proper Role for the Courts

Ambac Assur. Corp v. Knox Hills LLC, 2018 Ky. App. Lexis 188 (June 15, 2018)

This case involves a February 1, 2007 design/build agreement governing the rights of the several parties involved with a military housing construction and renovation project at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  Knox Hills, LLC (the owner) filed a breach of contract action against Ambac Assurance Corporation (the senior lender of the project) relating to what it characterized as Ambac’s wrongful withholding of consent to a change order that would have substantially reduced the scope of the project.  Knox Hills then sought an order staying the proceedings and compelling Ambac to arbitrate.  The circuit court granted the motion and, following an arbitration, entered an order confirming the arbitrator’s award in favor of Knox Hills.  Ambac then appealed the court’s order.

On appeal, the Kentucky Court of Appeals focused on two questions:  (1) whether the court or the arbitrator should have determined whether arbitration was required between Knox Hills and Ambac, and (2) whether arbitration was actually required. Continue reading “Kentucky Court of Appeals Draws a Distinction Between Substantive and Procedural Questions of Arbitrability, and Explains the Proper Role for the Courts”

Federal District Court in South Dakota Compels Arbitration Despite Defendant’s Failure to First Submit the Dispute to the Project Engineer as Required by the Disputes Clause

Dlorah, Inc. v. KLE Constr., LLC, No. CIV. 16-5102-JLV, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11043 (D.S.D. July 17, 2017)

Plaintiff, Dlorah, Inc. (“Dlorah”), filed suit against defendant, KLE Construction, LLC (“KLE”), in connection with an agreement for KLE to perform construction services at an apartment complex in Rapid City, South Dakota.  According to Dlorah, KLE’s actions while carrying out the construction breached the agreement and constituted fraud/deceit.

KLE moved the court to compel arbitration or alternatively stay the proceedings pursuant to an arbitration clause contained in the parties’ agreement.  Dlorah objected to KLE’s motion on three grounds: (i) defendant had not satisfied the conditions precedent to compel arbitration; (ii) the dispute at issue did not fall within the scope of the arbitration clause; and (iii) the arbitration clause was permissive, not mandatory, and therefore permitted Dlorah to file suit in court.  After concluding that the parties had in fact entered into a binding arbitration agreement, the court considered and rejected each of Dlorah’s arguments. Continue reading “Federal District Court in South Dakota Compels Arbitration Despite Defendant’s Failure to First Submit the Dispute to the Project Engineer as Required by the Disputes Clause”

Texas Court of Appeals Holds That the Effect of a Failure to Meet a Specific Contractual Deadline for Arbitration is a Procedural Question for the Arbitrator, Not the Trial Court

Tilson Home Corp. v. Zepeda, No. 14-16-00075-CV, 2016 Tex. App. LEXIS 12022 (Tex. App. Nov. 8, 2016)

The Court of Appeals of Texas has held that an arbitrator—not a trial court—must determine whether a prerequisite to the obligation to arbitrate has been met. Thus, when faced with the procedural question of whether an arbitration demand was timely filed, Texas trial courts must compel arbitration, leaving the question to the arbitrator. 

In Tilson Home Corp., Jorge and Lisa Zepeda hired Tilson to build a home on their property.  The contract’s arbitration provision stated:

Any dispute or claim which arise[s] from or relates to this Agreement, the Work and/or the Home will be barred unless the claim is filed with the [AAA] by Owner or Contractor within two (2) years and one (1) day from the date the cause of action accrues. Continue reading “Texas Court of Appeals Holds That the Effect of a Failure to Meet a Specific Contractual Deadline for Arbitration is a Procedural Question for the Arbitrator, Not the Trial Court”