Richland Equipment Company, Inc., a Mississippi Corporation v. Deere & Company, a Delaware Corporation
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER denying 35 Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal; finding as moot 37 Motion for Status Conference. Signed by District Judge Keith Starrett on 10/19/17. (cb)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
RICHLAND EQUIPMENT COMPANY,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 5:17-CV-88-KS-MTP
DEERE & COMPANY
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
For the reasons below, the Court denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Injunction
Pending Appeal  and denies as moot Plaintiff’s Motion for Status Conference .
This case arises from dealer agreements between Plaintiff, a retailer in tractors
and other outdoor/agricultural equipment, and Defendant, a manufacturer of such
equipment. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant threatened to unlawfully terminate the
dealer agreements and discontinue supplying inventory. Plaintiff alleges that
termination of the dealer agreements will cause the closure of its business.
Accordingly, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, asserting a wide variety of claims.
On July 18, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiff’s Motion for a Temporary
Restraining Order  on the basis that Plaintiff had not certified in writing his efforts
to provide notice to Defendant and/or its attorney and the reasons why notice and a
hearing should not be required. See FED. R. CIV. P. 65(b)(1). But after a telephone
conference with the attorneys of record, the Court set a preliminary injunction hearing
for September 25, 2017. The parties agreed to maintain the status quo pending the
Court’s ruling on Plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction.
On July 31, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration , based
on an arbitration provision in the most recent dealer agreement, the Commercial
Worksite Products Dealer Agreement (“CWP DA”). On August 11, 2017, Plaintiff filed
an Amended Complaint  which, in its words, “omitted any claims arising under or
related to” the CWP DA. Three days later, Plaintiff responded  to the Motion to
Compel Arbitration, arguing that the Motion to Compel Arbitration should be denied
because the CWP DA was no longer at issue in the case, and that the claims asserted
in this case do not fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement. In reply,
Defendant argued that an arbitration clause contained in a contract does not terminate
merely because the contract has terminated, and that the arbitrator must determine
the scope of the arbitration clause.
On September 13, 2017, the Court granted  Defendant’s Motion to Compel
Arbitration . The Court found that “an arbitration agreement contained in a
contract does not terminate merely because the contract has terminated,” Consorcio
Rive v. Briggs of Cancun, Inc., 82 F. App’x 359, 363 (5th Cir. 2003) (citing Nolde Bros.
v. Bakery & Confectionary Workers Union, 430 U.S. 243 , 249-55, 51 L. Ed. 2d 300, 97
S. Ct. 1067 (1977)),1 and a dispute should still be referred to arbitration pursuant to
an expired arbitration agreement if it falls within the scope of the agreement. Tristar
See also Tristar Fin. Ins. Agency, Inc. v. Equicredit Corp. of Am., 97 F. App’x
462, 466 (5th Cir. 2004); Wilson-Broadwater v. Delta Career Educ. Corp., No. 1:16CV-JSO-JCG, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162547, at *14 (S.D. Miss. Nov. 23, 2016).
Fin., 97 F. App’x at 466. Moreover, the Court found that the parties had expressly
incorporated arbitration rules that indicated the parties’ intent to delegate the issue
of arbitrability to the arbitrator. See Kubala v. Supreme Prod. Servs., 830 F.3d 199, 204
(5th Cir. 2016); Petrofac, Inc. v. DynMcDermott Petroleum Operations Co., 687 F.3d
671, 675 (5th Cir. 2012). Therefore, the Court concluded that the parties had agreed
to delegate all questions concerning the scope of the arbitration clause to the
arbitrator. It granted Defendant’s motion, ordered the parties to submit to arbitration,
and dismissed the case without prejudice.
On September 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Appeal  and a Motion for
Injunction Pending Appeal . The motion is ripe for the Court’s review.
The Court considers four factors when considering a request for a stay of an
order or judgment pending appeal: “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong
showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be
irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially
injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest
lies.” Planned Parenthood of Greater Tex. Surgical Health Servs. v. Abbott, 734 F.3d
406, 410 (5th Cir. 2013). “[O]n motions for stay pending appeal the movant need not
always show a ‘probability’ of success on the merits; instead, the movant need only
present a substantial case on the merits when a serious legal question is involved and
show that the balance of equities weighs heavily in favor of granting the stay.” Ruiz
v. Estelle, 666 F.2d 854, 856 (5th Cir. 1982). But “likelihood of success remains a
prerequisite in the usual case . . . .” Id. If the movant has not demonstrated a likelihood
of success on the merits, the Court will grant a stay “[o]nly if the balance of equities
(i.e. consideration of the other three factors) is . . . heavily tilted in the movant’s favor
. . . , and, even then, the issue must be one with patent substantial merit.” Id. at 857.
The party seeking the injunction has the burden of proof. Id. at 856. “A stay is not a
matter of right, even if irreparable injury might otherwise result to the applicant.”
Abbot, 734 F.3d at 410.
Among other things, Plaintiff argues that the Court erred insofar as the claims
asserted in the Amended Complaint do not arise under the CWP DA, which contained
the arbitration clause. Plaintiff now argues that the Court is not required to send the
case to an arbitrator for a gateway determination of arbitrability because Defendant’s
argument that the case falls within the scope of the arbitration clause is “wholly
As the Court noted in its previous opinion: “Just as the arbitrability of the
merits of a dispute depends upon whether the parties agreed to arbitrate that dispute,
so the question ‘who has the primary power to decide arbitrability’ turns upon what the
parties agreed about that matter.” Brittania-U Nig., Ltd. v. Chevron USA, Inc., 866
F.3d 709, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 14692, at *7 (5th Cir. 2017). The Court must
To be clear, this argument was not previously raised. At least one Court of
Appeals has stated that a party can not obtain injunctive relief pending appeal on a
basis that was not submitted at the time of the ruling under appeal. See New York
v. Nuclear Regulatory Comm’n, 550 F.2d 745, 758 n. 7 (2d Cir. 1977).
determine whether the arbitration agreement contains a delegation clause, “a provision
in an arbitration agreement that transfers the power to decide threshold questions of
arbitrability to the arbitrator.” Reyna v. Int’l Bank of Commerce, 839 F.3d 373, 378 (5th
Cir. 2016). The question is whether the agreement “evinces an intent to have the
arbitrator decide whether a given claim must be arbitrated.” Brittania-U, 2017 U.S.
App. LEXIS 14692 at *8. “If there is a delegation clause, the motion to compel
arbitration should be granted in almost all cases.” Reyna, 839 F.3d at 378.
But, as Plaintiff notes, “[t]he law of this circuit does not require all claims to be
sent to gateway arbitration merely because there is a delegation provision.” Douglas
v. Regions Bank, 757 F.3d 460, 463 (5th Cir. 2014). “If the argument that the claim at
hand is within the scope of the arbitration agreement is ‘wholly groundless,’” then the
Court need not subject the parties to “unnecessary and needlessly expensive
arbitration.” Id at 464. “An assertion of arbitrability is not ‘wholly groundless’ if ‘there
is a legitimate argument that th[e] arbitration clause covers the present dispute, and,
on the other hand, that it does not.’” IQ Prods. Co. v. WD-40 Co., No. 16-20595, 2017
U.S. App. LEXIS 17744, at *10 (5th Cir. Sept. 13, 2017) (quoting Douglas, 757 F.3d at
463) (alteration original). “So long as there is a ‘plausible’ argument that the
arbitration agreement requires the merits of the claim to be arbitrated, a delegation
clause is effective to divest the court of its ordinary power to decide arbitrability.” Id.
at *11 (quoting Kubala, 830 F.3d at 202 n. 1).
The arbitration clause in question provides:
Although Dealer and John Deere are entering into this Agreement in a
spirit of cooperation and mutual respect, it is possible that disputes may
arise. Dealer, Affiliates (including without limitation guarantors of
Dealer), Deere & Company and it’s [sic] affiliates agree that any dispute
shall be finally resolved by binding arbitration pursuant to the terms set
forth in Schedule 4. The duty to arbitrate shall extend to any officer,
employee, shareholder, principal, agent, partner, trustee (in bankruptcy
or otherwise), or subsidiary of Dealer or an Affiliate as to any dispute
that is subject to this Section 9 regardless of allegations against any third
Exhibit 3 to Complaint at 9, Richland Equip. Co., Inc. v. Deere & Co., No. 5:17-CV-88KS-MTP (S.D. Miss. July 3, 2017), ECF No. 1-5.
Defendant presented a plausible argument that the arbitration clause covers
Plaintiff’s claims concerning the other dealer agreements. First, while the reference to
“disputes” in the first sentence could be interpreted as limiting the scope of the
provision to disputes arising under the CWP DA, the second sentence plainly provides
that “any dispute shall be finally resolved by binding arbitration . . . .” Id. At best, the
provision is ambiguous, and “there is a legitimate argument that [the] arbitration
clause covers the present dispute, and, on the other hand, that it does not.” Douglas,
757 F.3d at 463 (alteration original).
Additionally, Defendant argues that the phrase “any dispute” should be
interpreted broadly because “disputes” arising under the CWP DA could involve
disputes under any previous dealer agreements because the contract contains a “crosstermination” provision. The CWP DA provides that “[t]he Company may cancel the
Dealer’s appointment at any time after . . . [t]ermination (or notice of termination) of
any John Deere Dealer Agreement that the dealer, or an affiliate company, has with
the Company.” Exhibit 3 [1-5], at 6. This is a plausible argument, and it provides
support for Defendant’s position regarding the scope of the disputed arbitration clause.
For these reasons, the Court finds that Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff’s
claims fall within the scope of the disputed arbitration provision is not wholly
groundless. Therefore, the Court must enforce the arbitration provision’s delegation
clause, and Plaintiff has not shown that its position has patent substantial merit. The
Court denies Plaintiff’s Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal. Plaintiff’s Motion for
Status Conference is denied as moot.
SO ORDERED AND ADJUDGED this 19th day of October, 2017.
/s/ Keith Starrett
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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