Ninth Circuit Remands Order Denying Motion to Compel Arbitration That Failed to Address the Effect of Delegation Clause in Parties’ Arbitration Agreement

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The delegation clause in the parties’ arbitration agreement provided that any “questions regarding the validity or enforcement of these Dispute Policies shall be delegated and submitted to the arbitrator, including whether the scope of the claim or dispute is subject to arbitration, and whether these Dispute Policies are enforceable as a matter of law.” The district court, however, ignored the clause and considered the validity and enforceability of the arbitration agreement by analyzing the unconscionability of portions of the agreement other than the delegation clause. That, the Ninth Circuit explained, was error.

The Ninth Circuit explained that the plaintiffs in the proceedings before the district court did not challenge the enforceability or validity of the delegation clause. Instead, the plaintiffs had contended that the defendants abandoned any argument relying on the delegation clause because they did not adequately raise the issue. The Ninth Circuit, however, disagreed that the defendants abandoned it, noting that the defendants had relied on the delegation clause in their briefing in support of their motion to compel arbitration. The Ninth Circuit also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the district court had found that the defendants had waived the delegation clause, observing that the lower court had actually indicated that it was uncertain as to whether waiver had occurred.

The Ninth Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of proving a defense to the enforceability of the delegation clause. However, the Ninth Circuit ruled, because the district court did not address the issue, it would vacate the order and remand the case to allow the district court to provide “a full analysis,” which the Ninth Circuit held might assist the court in its review.

Cipolla v. Team Enterprises, LLC, No. 19-15964 (9th Cir. June 24, 2020).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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