Second Circuit Finds that Petition to Compel Arbitration Cannot Be Voluntarily Dismissed

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[authors: Michael S. Gordon, Allison Wuertz]

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the Southern District of New York’s vacatur of a petitioner’s voluntary notice of dismissal of a petition to compel arbitration. Petitioner and respondent had entered into an arbitration agreement and petitioner had filed a petition to compel arbitration. After some litigation, petitioner filed a notice of voluntary dismissal under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Second Circuit found that the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure allowing for voluntary dismissal (Rule 41) did not apply to petitions to compel arbitration and that the petitioner lacked the right to voluntarily and unilaterally dismiss the petition for arbitration. Additionally, the Second Circuit found that allowing parties to voluntarily dismiss petitions to compel arbitration would inappropriately expand the voluntary dismissal right, as the Rule allows one party to curtail the other’s right of voluntary dismissal by filing an answer or a motion for summary judgment, but under the Federal Arbitration Act, a respondent’s option is limited: he can file a motion for summary judgment, but not an answer, in response to a motion to compel arbitration.

ISC Holding AG v. Nobel Biocare Finance AG, Nos. 10-4867-cv(L), 11-239-cv(CON) (2d Cir. July 25, 2012).