To Arbitrate, or Not to Arbitrate: A Question of Contractual Interpretation

Author: Collin L. Ryan, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

Arbitration. Most know and understand the term and its function for resolving differences. Yet if asked to classify the act of arbitrating a legal dispute under a broader category, where would the term fit? Is it an action? Is it a proceeding? Or is it something entirely separate and apart from such umbrella terminology, incapable of categorization? A current circuit split exists regarding that precise issue.[1] Specifically at issue is whether a party’s right to arbitrate a dispute is encompassed and superseded by a forum selection clause stating that “all actions and proceedings” be brought in a particular court, thus precluding the party’s right to commence arbitration.[2] The correct approach is that of the Fourth Circuit, which has held that arbitration rights are not precluded by this forum selection clause.

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