NOWAK v. PENNSYLVANIA PROFESSIONAL SOCCER, LLC et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE MARY A. MCLAUGHLIN ON 9/26/12. 9/26/12 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(kw, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SOCCER, LLC and KEYSTONE
SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT, LLC :
September 26, 2012
This case arises out of an employment contract (the
“Agreement”) entered into on June 1, 2009, between the plaintiff,
Piotr Nowak, and Pennsylvania Professional Soccer, LLC (the
The Agreement permitted the Club to terminate the
plaintiff’s employment with written notice upon the occurrence of
certain for-cause events.
On June 13, 2012, the Club invoked its
right to terminate Nowak for cause and issued written notice of
its intent to do so.
The plaintiff filed this suit against the Club and Keystone
Sports and Entertainment LLC, the owner of the Club,
(collectively, “Defendants”) seeking a declaratory judgment that
the defendants failed to satisfy the conditions precedent to
terminate his employment for cause under the Agreement.
The defendant moves to dismiss on the grounds that the
Agreement has an enforceable arbitration clause.
The Court will
grant the defendant’s motion, compel arbitration, and stay the
case pending arbitration.
The parties agree that Article XIII of the Agreement
contains the following arbitration clause: “Any controversy or
claim arising out of or relating to this Agreement or the breach
hereof, including, without limitation, any claims for wrongful
termination or employment discrimination or disputes regarding
Manager’s right to Severance Payments hereunder, shall be settled
by arbitration in accordance with the rules of the American
Arbitration Association and under the laws of the State of
Pennsylvania (without giving effects to the choice or conflict of
law principles thereof); provided, however, that nothing herein
shall prevent either party from seeking equitable relief from a
court of competent jurisdiction.”
The Arbitration Clause Covers the Instant Dispute
Pennsylvania law is clear that when “a party to a civil
action seeks to compel arbitration, the court must employ a twopart test to determine if arbitration is required.”
Metals, Ltd. v. Electroplating Tech. Ltd., No. 06-5245, 2009 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 109382, at *9, (E.D. Pa. Nov. 23, 2009) (citing
Keystone Technology Group, Inc. v. Kerr Group, Inc., 824 A.2d
1223, 1227 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2003)).
First, it must be determined
whether a valid agreement to arbitrate exists, and second, if
such an agreement does exist, it must be determined if the
dispute involved is within the scope of the arbitration
Here, there is no dispute between the parties that the
Article XIII arbitration clause exists in the Agreement, but the
parties disagree about whether the instant dispute falls within
the scope of the arbitration clause.
The Supreme Court has instructed that “any doubts concerning
the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of
Moses H. Cone Mem’l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr.
Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25 (1983).
Here, the language of Article XIII states that disputes
“arising out of or related to the Agreement” including those
related to “wrongful termination” and “severance pay” shall be
settled in arbitration.
That language speaks to precisely the
type of dispute at issue in the instant case so the only
remaining issue to consider is the arguments over whether the
plaintiff’s declaration judgment action falls under the
arbitration clause’s exception for equitable relief.
The Plaintiff’s Declaratory Judgment Action Does Not
Fall Under the Exception for Equitable Relief
The law in the Third Circuit is that whether a claim for
declaratory judgment is equitable or legal in nature depends on
what kind of suit the claim would have been if no declaratory
judgment remedy existed.
See AstenJohnson, Inc. v. Columbia Cas.
Co., 562 F.3d 213, 223-224 (3d Cir. 2009).
In AstenJohnson, the
Third Circuit found that a declaratory judgment claim based on a
breach of contract was not equitable in nature.
Id. at 224.
Here, as the plaintiff concedes, if there was no declaratory
judgment remedy, the plaintiff would have brought a claim for
breach of contract, which is a claim that sounds in law, not
Accordingly, the Court finds that the plaintiff’s
declaratory judgment action does not fall under the exception to
the arbitration clause for equitable relief.1
The Case Should be Stayed Pending Arbitration
Although the defendant requests that the Court dismiss the
case, Third Circuit case law reveals a preference to stay cases
when enforcing arbitration clauses.
Cf Lloyd v. Hovensa, 369
F.3d 263, 269 (3d Cir. 2004) ( “Accordingly, we hold that the
Because the Court decides that the arbitration clause
applies even assuming the validity of the plaintiff’s declaratory
judgment action, the Court does not address defendant’s arguments
that the plaintiff’s claims do not fall within the scope of the
Declaratory Judgment Act.
District Court was obligated under 9 U.S.C. § 3 to grant the stay
once it decided to order arbitration.”).
In Lloyd, the Third Circuit articulated three rationales for
overturning the District Court’s decision to dismiss rather than
stay the action.
See id. at 269-271.
The first reason, that the
text of the Federal Arbitration Act requires that result when a
party moves for a stay, is not applicable here because the motion
requests dismissal rather than a stay.
However, the other two
rationales, namely that the Court continues to play a role in
adjudicating disputes in the facilitation of arbitration and that
a stay, unlike a dismissal, does not create an appealable issue
that might further delay an actual arbitration, both apply to
Accordingly, the Court will enforce the arbitration clause
and place a stay in this case pending arbitration.
An appropriate order follows.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?