United States: Effective Carve-Outs To Seek Injunctive Relief From The Court In Arbitration Provisions

Last Updated: August 17 2015
Article by Alex Meier

Christopher Pike: "That's a technicality."

Spock: "I am a [lawyer], sir. We embrace technicalities."

Star Trek Into Darkness

Arbitration is no longer the final frontier. Instead, arbitration is often the first and only forum for resolving disputes. The business community has embraced arbitration as an alternative method of dispute resolution, but sophisticated parties still maintain a preference favoring court resolution of disputes involving preliminary and injunctive relief.

What someone wants and what someone agrees to, however, can vary drastically. Including an arbitration carve-out for preliminary injunctive relief is extremely common, but will the court honor it?

This issue arises at the intersection of two different provisions in an arbitration agreement: the carve-out to an arbitration provision and the delegation provision. The carve-out typically excludes certain disputes from arbitration, such as:

  • Example: "The Parties agree to resolve any dispute, controversy or claim that arises during the course of the Parties' Agreement. If the Parties are unable to resolve a dispute, the dispute, other than a dispute relating to the breach of the confidentiality provision of this Agreement, shall be subject to final and binding arbitration by a single arbitrator."
  • Example: "Any dispute arising out of or in connection with this Agreement shall be referred to and finally resolved by arbitration before a single arbitrator. The foregoing, however, shall not preclude the parties from applying for any preliminary or injunctive remedies available under applicable laws for any purpose."

The delegation provision is a statement by the parties about who decides whether a dispute is arbitrable, usually indicated by:

  • A statement expressly reserving questions about the scope of arbitration for the arbitrator.

    • Example: "Any dispute arising out of or in connection with the arbitration provision of this Agreement, including any questions regarding its existence, validity or termination, shall be referred to and finally resolved by the arbitrator."
  • Incorporating the Rules of the American Arbitration Association ("AAA") or another arbitration organization's rules that reserve disputes over the scope of an arbitration provision for the arbitrator.

    • Example: "The Parties agree that any dispute regarding the interpretation or enforcement of this Agreement shall be resolved by binding arbitration according to the rules of the American Arbitration Association."

So what happens if an arbitration provision includes both a carve-out for preliminary injunctive relief and a delegation provision? According to several recent cases in the Eleventh Circuit, everything goes to arbitration, even claims expressly carved out by the parties.

The anomaly occurs because of the order in which the court must address what it has the authority to decide and what is reserved for the arbitrator.

The court begins by assessing whether questions about the scope or applicability of the arbitration provision may be addressed by the court. The default setting is that the court retains the authority to decide "questions of arbitrability." The parties, however, have the ability to reassign that authority from the court to the arbitrator. Doing so means that the arbitrator decides whether a dispute should be in arbitration and the merits of any dispute subject to arbitration.

The delegation provision trumps any carve-out. If questions of arbitrability are reserved for the arbitrator, then the court cannot address claims within the carve-out unless both parties agree that the carve-out claims may be brought in court.

But any dispute about whether a claim is arbitrable or carved out obliterates the court's authority to address the claim because questions of arbitrability must be heard by the arbitrator.

A recent case in the Northern District of Georgia demonstrates how a delegation provision stopped a former employer from enforcing non-compete and non-disclosure provisions against a former employee.

In Cellairis, Inc. v. Duarte, Case No. 2:15-cv-101-WCO (N.D. Ga. 2015), a cell phone kiosk franchisor filed a preliminary injunction to enforce non-compete and non-disclosure provisions against a former employee. The agreement contained an arbitration clause that sent everything to arbitration except for a few disputes where irreparable harm could result, like a confidentiality or non-compete violation.

But the agreement also contained a delegation provision, which unequivocally provided that all disputes over the scope of the arbitration clause must be decided by the arbitrator.

Even though the franchisor had some very compelling evidence that its former employee was competing in the same industry and violating the scope of the non-compete agreement, the court found that it lacked the authority to enjoin the employee because the arbitrator had to first decide whether a request for preliminary injunctive relief qualified as a "request for preliminary injunctive relief."

Because the franchisor overlooked the effect of the delegation provision on its ability to bring an action in court, the franchisor wasted time and money seeking relief the court could not provide. Instead, after several weeks, the franchisor left the court with nothing more than an order to initiate arbitration proceedings.

NOTES FOR THE CAPTAIN'S LOG

  • If your agreements contain carve-outs in any form and either incorporate the AAA Rules or expressly delegate questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator, consider placing a "carve-out" in the delegation provision allowing the court to decide whether a dispute falls within the arbitration carve-out.
  • If you are involved or about to be involved in a dispute over an agreement with this issue, it may be more cost-effective and efficient to simply start in arbitration and decide scope issues in that forum. Otherwise, you run the risk of spending precious time arguing about whether the court can even consider your request for relief in the first place–let alone decide it.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions