The Seventh Circuit today affirmed a district court’s ruling on whether a party to an international arbitration missed the deadline for appointing one of three arbitrators.  The parties’ agreement required each side to make its appointment "by" a certain time — within 30 days.  The two arbitrators would then pick the third.  The end of the period came on a Sunday, but one of the parties, Argonaut, waited until Monday to name its appointee.  Too late, the district court held.  The Seventh Circuit agreed.  Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London v. Argonaut Ins. Co., No. 06-3395 (7th Cir. Aug. 29, 2007).

Most of the court’s opinion deals with what law applies.  Because the coverage dispute involved an international arbitration agreement, the court chose federal common law.  The panel reasoned that, in the absence of a choice-of-law clause, the "overarching federal concern with the uniformity of treatment of international arbitration agreements requires that the issue before us be resolved by a federal common law rule, rather than by a state rule of decision."  Slip op. at 17.  Under that rule, the court concluded, Argonaut’s appointment came after the cut-off.

Barry Barnett

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