Under the Federal Arbitration Act, only “a final decision with respect to an arbitration” is appealable. 9 U.S.C. §16(a)(3). The issue facing the Ninth Circuit was whether an order compelling arbitration which neither explicitly dismissed nor explicitly stayed the action was such “a final decision.” The Court concluded it was not a final decision and therefore was not appealable. In MediVas, the district court’s order on appeal (“Order”) ruled that many of the plaintiff’s claims were subject to the arbitration clause, and ordered arbitration for those claims. As to the remaining claims, the district court remanded them to state court. Neither the Order nor any other order in that case explicitly dismissed nor explicitly stayed the arbitrable claims, and no judgment was entered in the action.
In its analysis, the Court reasoned that a final decision is one which “ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment.” Thus, an order compelling arbitration may be appealed if it dismisses all the underlying claims, but may not be appealed if the court stays the action pending arbitration. Consistent with its earlier rulings and with the procedural history of the case before it, the Ninth Circuit held the Order implicitly stayed the arbitrable claims pending the outcome of the arbitration. Because those claims were not dismissed, the Order was therefore interlocutory and not appealable.
Significantly, although the Medivas Court declined to follow the Second Circuit’s requirement of an official dismissal of all claims before reviewing an order compelling arbitration, the Court adopted a rebuttable presumption that an order compelling arbitration which did not explicitly dismiss the underlying claims stays the action as to those claims pending the completion of the arbitration. The Court did so in order to simplify the analysis in future cases where the order compelling arbitration is not clear. Along those lines, the MediVas Court also urged the district courts make their orders as clear as possible as to whether they intend to dismiss or stay a case, and noted that the appeal before it could have been avoided had the parties requested a clarification of the Order. , Case No. 12-55375 D.C. No. 3:10-cv-01001-W-RBB (9th Cir. Jan. 27, 2014).