The Second Circuit declined to dismiss an interlocutory appeal from a district court’s refusal to compel arbitration under the doctrine of equitable estoppel.  The doctrine requires a party who didn’t sign an arbitration agreement to arbitrate anyway.  The court rejected the argument that the absence of an agreement, in writing, with the party resisting arbitration deprives it of jurisdiction to decide the merits of the refusal to compel.  Ross v. American Express Co., Nos. 06-4598 & 06-4759 (2nd Cir. Feb. 13, 2007).

Without explanation, the opinion "declines to follow" In re Universal Service Fund Telephone Billing Practices Litig., 428 F.3d 940 (10th Cir. 2005), and DSMC Inc. v. Convera Corp., 349 F.3d 679 (D.C. Cir. 2003).  Both dismissed appeals from orders that declined to apply the equitable estoppel theory for compelling arbitration to non-signatories.

Can the arbitragation mess get any messier?

Update Note:  You can now view a copy of the Second Circuit opinion by clicking on the case cite at the end of the first paragraph above.

Barry Barnett

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