Jean Lafitte Condominium, LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London et al
ORDER AND REASONS granting in part and denying in part 14 Motion to Compel Arbitration. The Court GRANTS defendants' request to compel arbitration and stay the proceeding pending arbitration. Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the matter is STAYED and ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSED pending arbitration. The Court DENIES defendants' request to dismiss plaintiff's claims against them. Signed by Judge Sarah S. Vance on 11/14/2023. (cs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
JEAN LAFITTE CONDOMINIUM,
CERTAIN UNDERWRITERS AT
LLOYD’S, LONDON, ET AL.
SECTION “R” (4)
ORDER AND REASONS
Before the Court is defendants Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s and
Other Insurers Subscribing to Binding Authority B604510568622021
(“Certain Underwriters”) and Independent Specialty Insurance Company’s
unopposed motion to compel arbitration and stay the proceedings or,
alternatively, to dismiss the action.1 For the following reasons, the Court
grants in part and denies in part the motion.
Plaintiff is the owner of commercial property in Lafitte, Louisiana, that
was allegedly damaged during Hurricane Ida on August 29, 2021.2 At the
time of the hurricane, the property was insured by defendants under a
R. Doc. 14.
R. Doc. 2-1 ¶ 5.
surplus lines insurance policy.3 Plaintiff alleges that defendants failed to
make appropriate payments pursuant to the policy, and asserts causes of
action for breach of the insurance contract and breach of the duty of good
faith and fair dealing.4
Defendants removed the action to this Court,
invoking federal-question jurisdiction because the subject matter of the
action relates to an arbitration agreement enforceable under the Convention
on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“New York
Convention” or “Convention”) and the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).5 On
September 8, 2023, Magistrate Judge Karen Roby granted defendants’
motion to opt-out of the Court’s Streamlined Settlement Program.6
Defendants now move to compel arbitration and to stay proceedings
Defendants contend that arbitration is mandated
under the following provision within the insurance policy:8
All matters in difference between an insured and the Insurer
(hereinafter referred to as “the Parties”) in relation to this
insurance, including its formation, validity, and the arbitrability
of any dispute, and whether arising during or after the period of
this insurance, shall be referred to an Arbitration Tribunal in the
Id. ¶ 6. See generally R. Doc. 2-2.
R. Doc. 2-1 ¶¶ 23-34.
R. Doc. 2. See also 9 U.S.C. § 205 (providing for removal of actions
when the subject matter “relates to an arbitration agreement or award
falling under the Convention”).
R. Doc. 12.
R. Doc. 14.
R. Doc. 2-2 at 37.
manner hereinafter set forth. This Arbitration Clause applies to
all persons or entities claiming that they are entitled to any sums
under the policy.
The arbitration provision further states that “[t]he seat of the Arbitration
shall be in New York, unless some other location is agreed to by the Parties
and the Arbitration Tribunal,” and that the “Arbitration Tribunal shall apply
the law of New York when resolving all matters in difference between the
Parties, regardless of the location of the Arbitration.”9 Plaintiff does not
oppose the motion.
The Court considers the motion below.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
Arbitration under the New York Convention
The New York Convention is an international treaty that provides
citizens of the signatory countries with the right to enforce arbitration
agreements. The purpose of the Convention is “to encourage the recognition
and enforcement of commercial arbitration agreements in international
contracts and to unify the standards by which agreements to arbitrate are
observed and arbitral awards are enforced in the signatory countries.”
Scherk v. Alberto-Culver Co., 417 U.S. 506, 520 n. 15 (1974). The FAA, 9
Id. at 38.
U.S.C. §§ 201-208, codifies the Convention and provides for its enforcement
in United States courts. See 9 U.S.C. § 201 (“The [New York Convention]
shall be enforced in United States courts in accordance with this chapter.”);
see also id. § 206 (“A court having jurisdiction under this chapter may direct
that arbitration be held in accordance with the agreement at any place
therein provided for, whether that place is within or without the United
“In determining whether the Convention requires compelling
arbitration in a given case, courts conduct only a very limited inquiry.”
Freudensprung v. Offshore Tech. Servs., Inc., 379 F.3d 327, 339 (5th Cir.
“[A] court should compel arbitration if (1) there is a written
agreement to arbitrate the matter; (2) the agreement provides for arbitration
in a Convention signatory nation; ‘(3) the agreement arises out of a
commercial legal relationship; and (4) a party to the agreement is not an
American citizen.’” Id. (quoting Francisco v. STOLT ACHIEVEMENT MT,
293 F.3d 270, 274 (5th Cir. 2002)). Once these factors have been found to
exist, a court must order arbitration “unless it finds that the [arbitration]
agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed.” Id.
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
All four requirements are satisfied in this case. First, the insurance
contract contains a written agreement to submit “[a]ll matters” in dispute
relating to the insurance policy to arbitration.10 Second, the agreement
provides for arbitration in a signatory nation, namely the United States, and
specifically in New York.11 Third, the arbitration agreement arises out of a
commercial legal relationship through the contract of insurance between
plaintiff and defendants. See 9 U.S.C. § 202 (defining a commercial legal
relationship as “including a transaction, contract, or agreement described in
section 2 of [Title 9]”). And finally, at least one party to the agreement is not
a citizen of the United States, as multiple subscribing underwriters at Certain
Underwriters are syndicates that are citizens of England and Wales.12 No
party contests the applicability of the Convention to the arbitration
agreement. The Court therefore finds that the arbitration agreement falls
Id. at 37.
Id. at 38.
Defendants assert in their motion that two entities, RenaissanceRe
Corporate Capital (UK) Limited (“RenRe U.K.”) and RenaissanceRe
Specialty U.S. Limited (“RenRe U.S.”) are foreign corporate entities
that subscribed to the policy and participated in the risk through
Lloyd’s market. R. Doc. 14-1 at 3. RenRe U.K. is a private limited
company incorporated under the laws of England and Wales with its
principal place of business in England and Wales, and RenRe U.S. is a
private limited company incorporated under the laws of Bermuda, a
territory of England and Wales, with its principal place of business in
Bermuda. R. Docs. 14-4 & 14-5.
under the Convention. Accordingly, the Court must order arbitration unless
it finds the agreement in the insurance policy is null and void, inoperative,
or incapable of being performed. Freudensprung, 379 F.3d at 339.
The “null and void” defense, which is set forth in Article II(3) of the
Convention, “limits the bases upon which an international arbitration
agreement may be challenged to standard breach-of-contract defenses,” such
as fraud, mistake, duress, and waiver. DiMercurio v. Sphere Drake Ins.,
PLC, 202 F.3d 71, 79-80 (5th Cir. 2000). “In light of the strong presumption
favoring arbitration, ‘a party seeking to invalidate an arbitration agreement
bears the burden of establishing its invalidity.’” 1010 Common, L.L.C. v.
Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London, No. 20-2326, 2020 WL 7342752,
at *9 (E.D. La. Dec. 14, 2020) (quoting Carter v. Countrywide Credit Indus.,
Inc., 362 F.3d 294, 297 (5th Cir. 2004)); see also Freudensprung, 379 F.3d
at 341 (“Under the FAA, a written arbitration agreement is prima facie valid
and must be enforced unless the opposing party . . . alleges and proves that
the arbitration clause itself was a product of fraud, coercion, or such grounds
as exist at law or in equity for the revocation of the contract.” (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted)).
Here, plaintiff does not oppose
defendants’ motion for arbitration or challenge the validity of the arbitration
clause. Thus, the Court finds the arbitration agreement to be valid.
Finally, in assessing whether the parties agreed to arbitrate the dispute
in question, courts generally must ask “whether the dispute in question falls
within the scope of that arbitration agreement.’” Tittle v. Enron Corp., 463
F.3d 410, 418-19 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting Webb v. Investacorp, Inc., 89 F.3d
252, 258 (5th Cir. 1996)). Here, defendants contend that the “scope” inquiry
should be left to the arbitration panel, not the Court, because the arbitration
agreement includes a broad delegation clause that requires “[a]ll matters in
difference,” including those relating to the “arbitrability of any dispute,” to
be resolved by arbitration.13 The Supreme Court has recognized that parties
“can agree to arbitrate ‘gateway’ questions of arbitrability, such as whether
the parties have agreed to arbitrate or whether their agreement covers a
particular controversy.” Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson, 561 U.S. 63,
70 (2010); see also Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc., 139 S.
Ct. 524, 527 (2019) (recognizing that the FAA “allows parties to agree by
contract that an arbitrator, rather than the court, will resolve threshold
arbitrability questions as well as underlying merits disputes” (citations
omitted)). Moreover, the Fifth Circuit has found that a similar arbitration
agreement, which required the parties to submit “any dispute or difference
between the parties” to arbitration in New York, was “extremely broad,” and
R. Doc. 2-2 at 37; R. Doc. 14-1.
“encompasse[d] substantially all of the potential controversies growing out
of” the underlying claim. Sedco, Inc. v. Petroleos Mexicanos Mexican Nat.
Oil Co. (Pemex), 767 F.2d 1140, 1145, 1150 (5th Cir. 1985). Given the broad
scope of the arbitration clause, the Fifth Circuit held that arbitrators, rather
than the court, “should initially determine which of the intricate factual
disputes come within the arbitration clause.” Id. at 1150 (“Although in some
situations we have stated that the court should first determine whether, and
what, issues are for arbitration, we think that given the broad framework of
the arbitration clause in this situation, the arbitrators should initially
determine which of the intricate factual disputes come within the arbitration
clause.”). Accordingly, this Court finds that whether the dispute falls within
the scope of the broad arbitration agreement is properly addressed by the
Stay or Dismissal Pending Arbitration
Having found that plaintiff’s claims must be submitted to arbitration,
the Court must now determine whether to dismiss or stay the action pending
arbitration. Section 3 of the FAA provides that, when claims are properly
referable to arbitration, the Court “shall[,] on application of one of the
parties[,] stay the trial of the action until such arbitration has been had in
accordance with the terms of the agreement, providing the applicant for the
stay is not in default in proceeding with such arbitration.” 9 U.S.C. § 3. Here,
defendants have applied for a stay pending arbitration, and such a stay is
mandatory under section 3. Although defendants sought dismissal in the
alternative, dismissal is discretionary, not mandatory. See Apache Bohai
Corp. LDC v. Texaco China, B.V., 330 F.3d 307, 311 n.9 (5th Cir. 2003); see
also Fedmet Corp. v. M/V Buyalyk, 194 F.3d 674, 676 (5th Cir. 1999)
(“[D]istrict courts have discretion to dismiss cases in favor of arbitration.”).
Because defendants have not explained why dismissal, rather than a stay, is
warranted, the Court declines to exercise its discretion to dismiss the matter.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES
IN PART defendants’ motion. The Court GRANTS defendants’ request to
compel arbitration and stay the proceeding pending arbitration.
ADMINISTRATIVELY CLOSED pending arbitration. The Court DENIES
defendants’ request to dismiss plaintiff’s claims against them.
New Orleans, Louisiana, this _____
14th day of November, 2023.
SARAH S. VANCE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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