Wisconsin Federal Court Vacates Order Compelling Arbitration and Reopens District Court Case, Finding “Extraordinary Circumstances” Justified Relief Under FRCP 60(b)

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Marcia Laude filed suit alleging that her late husband was not adequately cared for while residing in a nursing home operated by the defendants. In 2019, a Wisconsin district court granted the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the case without prejudice. Two years later, the plaintiffs sought relief from the order compelling arbitration and requested, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), that they be permitted to pursue their case in federal court. Rule 60(b) allows the court to relieve a party from a final judgment or order for certain specified reasons, or for “any other reason that justifies relief.” Obtaining relief under the “catchall” provision requires proof of “extraordinary circumstances.” Here, the court accepted that extraordinary circumstances existed because the defendants moved to compel arbitration years ago, over the plaintiffs’ objection, and then refused to arbitrate or even communicate with the plaintiffs for 13 months, leaving them without a remedy. The plaintiffs also argued that the defendants impliedly waived their right to arbitrate given their conduct since the 2019 order. The court agreed, and thus granted the plaintiffs’ request to reopen the case in federal court, under Rule 60(b)(6).

Laude v. Azar, No. 2:19-cv-00783 (E.D. Wis. June 15, 2021).

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