Fifth Circuit Affirms Ruling That Parties Lacked Agreement to Arbitrate

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The Western District of Texas had previously concluded that there was no “meeting of the minds” between the parties with respect to arbitration and denied the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit found that the policies and procedures, incorporated by reference into the parties’ agreement, contained conflicting language. The policies and procedures stated that “[i]f mediation is unsuccessful, any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to the Agreement, or the breach thereof, will be settled by arbitration,” while the parties’ agreement contained a jurisdiction and choice-of-law clause, which stated that “[a]ny legal action concerning the Agreement will be brought in the state and federal courts located in Salt Lake City, Utah.” Relying on similar case law from the Tenth Circuit, the Fifth Circuit concluded that the jurisdiction and choice-of-law clause in the agreement signed by the plaintiff was “compelling evidence against an intent to arbitrate breaches of the Agreement.” Given the irreconcilable conflict between the two clauses, and that there was no limiting language in the parties’ agreement suggesting that the jurisdiction and choice-of-law clause only applied to disputes not subject to arbitration, there was no “meeting of the minds” with respect to arbitration.

O’Shaughnessy v. Young Living Essential Oils, L.C., No. 19-51169 (5th Cir. Apr. 28, 2020).

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