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Conrad v. Phone Directories Co. - 585 F.3d 1376 (10th Cir. 2009)

Rule:

In order to properly invoke appellate jurisdiction under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), the movant must either explicitly move to stay litigation and/or compel arbitration pursuant to the FAA, or it must be unmistakably clear from the four corners of the motion that the movant seeks relief provided for in the FAA. 

Facts:

Plaintiff Sean Conrad filed a lawsuit in federal district court against his former employer, defendant Phone Directories Co., and its chief executive and financial officers (defendants Marc and Mike Bingham, respectively, collectively "PDC") on state-law tort and breach-of-contract claims. Subject-matter jurisdiction in the district court was premised on diversity of citizenship; Conrad was a citizen of Oklahoma, PDC was domiciled in Utah, and Conrad sought more than $ 75,000 in damages. The gravamen of Conrad's suit, in essence, was that PDC violated an agreement to employ him, as well as to provide him with five percent of the profits when the company was sold in 2007. The district court granted PDC's motion with respect to some of Conrad's state-law tort claims, but denied the motion to dismiss the complaint in full under the arbitration agreement. PDC filed an immediate appeal of that denial.

Issue:

Did the court have jurisdiction over an interlocutory appeal of the denial of a motion to dismiss premised on the existence of an arbitration agreement?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that it did not have jurisdiction. Based on the plain text of the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), canons of construction of jurisdictional statutes, and the Supreme Court of the United States' categorical approach to the FAA's appellate jurisdiction provision, the court held that in order to properly invoke appellate jurisdiction under the FAA, the movant had to either explicitly move to stay litigation and/or compel arbitration pursuant to the FAA, or it had to be unmistakably clear from the four corners of the motion that the movant sought relief provided for in the FAA. Because PDC's Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 motion was a request for judicial relief in the form of dismissal, the essence of PDC's motion was not for relief under the FAA, and no 9 U.S.C.S. § 16(a) appellate jurisdiction existed over the denial of that motion.

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