Land v. French Quarter Partners LLC et al
ORDER granting 8 motion to compel arbitration and stay these proceedings; denying 10 motion to dismiss; and staying this case pending the outcome of the arbitration proceedings. Signed by Judge Brian S. Miller on 10/13/2020. (jbh)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
CASE NO. 4:20-CV-00718-BSM
FRENCH QUARTER PARTNERS LLC, et al.
Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and stay these proceedings [Doc. No. 8] is
granted and defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction [Doc. No. 10] is denied.
Tierra Land entered into a contract with French Quarter Partners LLC to work as an
exotic dancer. Indep. Contractor Agreement, Doc. No. 8-1. The contract provides that all
claims and disputes arising under it or relating to it are to be arbitrated pursuant to the
Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA).” Id. ¶ 4.
Land filed this lawsuit against defendants, who now move to compel arbitration
pursuant to the contract. In response, Land argues that the arbitration agreement should not
be enforced because it is unconscionable. Resp. Mot. Compel Arb. at 4, Doc. No. 14. She
contends that arbitrations of employment claims like hers should proceed under AAA’s
Employment Arbitration Rules, rather than under the AAA Commercial Arbitration Rules,
as required by the contract. Id. at 3, 6.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Motions to compel arbitration are analyzed under either Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) or Rule 56. City of Benkelman, Nebraska v. Baseline Eng'g Corp., 867
F.3d 875, 881 (8th Cir. 2017) (acknowledging that the “motion does not sit squarely on all
fours with either rule”). When parties submit matters outside the pleadings, it is appropriate
to construe a Rule 12(b)(6) motion as one for summary judgment. Id. Summary judgment
may be granted when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, presents no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Garrison v. ConAgra Foods Packaged Foods, LLC, 833 F.3d
881, 884 (8th Cir. 2016).
Arbitration is a matter of contract. Rent–A–Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S.
63, 67 (2010). An arbitration agreement “shall be valid, irrevocable, and enforceable save
upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of any contract.” 9 U.S.C.
§ 2. An arbitration agreement is presumptively enforceable when it is in writing and involves
commerce, as long as the aggrieved party can effectively vindicate her statutory rights
through arbitration. 9 U.S.C. § 2; Green Tree Fin. Corp.-Ala. v. Randolph, 531 U.S.79, 90
(2000). Any doubts concerning the permissibility of arbitrating particular issues should be
resolved in favor of arbitration. Wilson v. Career Educ. Corp., 2011 WL 6012172 at *1
(E.D. Mo. Dec. 2, 2011). It is permissible for an arbitration agreement to refer threshold
questions of arbitrability to an arbitrator. Rent–A–Center, West, 561 U.S. at 68–69.
It is undisputed the parties entered into a written arbitration agreement involving
commerce. Land, however, argues that the arbitration agreement is unenforceable because
it is unconscionable. Resp. Mot. Compel Arb. at 6. She contends that disputes arising out
of her contract should be governed by AAA’s Employment Arbitration Rules and not AAA’s
Commercial Arbitration Rules. Id. at 3. Under the Commercial Arbitration Rules, Land
claims she would have to pay $15,000 to prosecute her claim, while she would only incur an
expense of $300 under the Employment Arbitration Rules. Id. at 3–4.
Although Land makes a fair argument, this court lacks authority to make that
determination because the parties’ contract incorporates the Commercial Arbitration Rules,
which give the arbitrator “the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any
objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement or to
the arbitrability of any claim or counterclaim.” Am. Arb. Ass’n, Commercial Arbitration
Rules & Mediation Procedures R-7 (2016). Consequently, issues of arbitrability are reserved
for the arbitrator. See, e.g., Fallo v. High–Tech Inst., 559 F.3d 874, 878 (8th Cir.2009).
Land must therefore assert her unconscionability arguments to the arbitrator.
For the foregoing reasons, defendants’ motion to compel arbitration is granted and this
case is stayed pending the outcome of the arbitration proceedings.
IT IS SO ORDERED, this 13th day of October, 2020.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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