When you do business in a highly competitive industry, it is not unreasonable to expect that, at some point, you’ll face legal action initiated by a competitor. When the competitor that sues you is one of the largest businesses in your industry, you can expect them to come well-armed with significant resources. Whether the entity that has sued you is tiny or an industry giant, you need to have your own array of strong resources on your side, and that includes having a skilled South Florida commercial litigation attorney to help guide you and advise you. The right attorney can be invaluable as you make critical choices, such as whether to proceed in civil court or in an arbitration setting.
Arbitration has the possibility to save you immense amounts of time. That time savings can be extremely attractive to some businesses. If that’s your business, then the next key is getting your case moved from civil court to arbitration. One way you potentially can get a judge to compel arbitration is by using the other side’s own contractual language against it.
A business dispute involving a very large health and life insurance agency and an alleged scheme to steal its business is a good example of how one group of defendants did exactly that.
The alleged conspiracy included a group of sales agents who worked for the agency and a group of competing entities. The agency launched two separate lawsuits. In one, which it filed in the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, the agency took on the competing entities. The agency sued its agents in a separate action in the Circuit Court for Broward County.
The defendants in the Miami action argued that the trial court should compel the two sides to resolve the case via arbitration. In support of that argument, the defendants pointed to the agency’s own agent agreement it had executed with its sales agents, which contained a mandatory arbitration clause within it.
Availing Yourself of an Arbitration Clause in a Contract You Didn’t Sign
Even though the defendants were not signatories to the agent agreements, they still had the right to demand arbitration. The reason that the defendants succeeded in forcing the case into arbitration was how the agency pled its complaint. Although the agency advanced separate cases against the entities and against its sales agents, the claims that the agency made in the Miami case were so intertwined with aspects of its agent agreements that the entities were entitled to avail themselves to the arbitration clauses within those agreements.
For example, the agency alleged, within the Miami case, that the entities conspired with the agents in carrying out a scheme to steal the agency’s business. The entities allegedly did so by interfering with the agent agreements while, at the same time, the agents were breaching those agreements within the same conspiracy. By making those allegations, the agency intertwined the case against the entities with the agent agreements.
As the court pointed out in ruling in favor of the defendants (and in favor of sending the dispute to arbitration,) the claims that the agency made in the entities’ lawsuit and in the agents’ lawsuit were “based on the same set of operative facts and unquestionably premised upon substantially interdependent and concerted misconduct between the non-signatories and the signatories.” Based on that sameness, the defendant entities were entitled to utilize the arbitration clause in the agent agreements.
Dealing with commercial litigation against an industry competitor can be challenging but, with the help of the right legal team, success is within your reach. Rely on the knowledgeable commercial dispute arbitration attorneys at Stok Kon + Braverman to be that powerful, diligent, and effective advocate for your business.
Contact us online or by calling (954) 237-1777 to schedule your consultation.