Parties to a contract with an arbitration agreement will often litigate the issue of whether the arbitration provision covers the parties’ dispute. Because arbitration is a different method of dispute resolution than court litigation, the distinguishing traits of arbitration can tactically benefit one party more than the other. Parties will often have the incentive to challenge whether arbitration is proper. Whether a dispute should be arbitrated is generally governed by the particular wording of the arbitration agreement. Accordingly, the scope of the arbitration agreement can have a significant impact on the ultimate resolution of the case. Peter Mavrick is a Miami business litigation lawyer, and also represents clients in business litigation in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and Palm Beach. The Mavrick Law Firm represents clients in breach of contract litigation, non-compete agreement litigation, trade secret litigation, trademark infringement litigation, and other legal disputes in federal and state courts and in arbitration.
Parties involved in business litigation often challenge whether the dispute is properly arbitrable. While federal and state law governs the interpretation and enforcement of arbitration agreements, arbitration is fundamentally a creature of contract. Which disputes are arbitrable is ultimately controlled by the provisions found in the parties’ contract. “The intent of the parties to a contract, as manifested in the plain language of the arbitration provision and contract itself, determines whether a dispute is subject to arbitration. Courts generally favor such provisions, and will try to resolve an ambiguity in an arbitration provision in favor of arbitration.” Jackson v. Shakespeare Found., Inc., 108 So. 3d 587 (Fla. 2013). A previous article explored how courts will evaluate contract provisions that agree to arbitrate disputes “arising out of” or “related to” the agreement. Another article described how third-party beneficiaries to a contract may seek to compel arbitration of a dispute.
“Disputes arise in many and varied contexts and the mere coincidence that the parties in dispute have a contractual relationship will ordinarily not be enough to mandate arbitration of the dispute.” Seifert v. U.S. Home Corp., 750 So. 2d 633 (Fla. 1999). “An agreement to arbitrate, arising out of a contractual obligation, is essentially a question of law regarding the construction of that contract.” Steritech Group, Inc. v. MacKenzie, 970 So. 2d 895 (Fla. 5th DCA 2007). “[T]he determination of whether an arbitration clause requires arbitration of a particular dispute necessarily ‘rests on the intent of the parties.’” Seifert v. U.S. Home Corp., 750 So. 2d 633 (Fla. 1999). “The general rule is that where an arbitration agreement exists between the parties, arbitration is required only of those controversies or disputes which the parties have agreed to submit to arbitration.” Miller v. Roberts, 682 So.2d 691 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996). “Only those claims which the parties have agreed are arbitrable may be subject to arbitration.” Regency Group, Inc. v. McDaniels, 647 So. 2d 192 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994).