A municipality sued the company that constructed its water treatment facility, in connection with contaminants found in the water supply. The parties had entered into a series of agreements which contained choice of law and arbitration clauses governing the resolution of any disputes. The company filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction based on the contracts’ forum selection and arbitration clauses, and the court construed the motion as falling under Rule 12(b)(1). The court then found that the contracts were inconsistent and ambiguous, and considered extrinsic evidence. The court ultimately granted the motion to dismiss and directed the parties to proceed to arbitration.
On appeal, the Eighth Circuit found that the district court erred by analyzing the motion to dismiss as a 12(b)(1) challenge to its jurisdiction. The court explained that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that “federal venue laws, not forum-selection clauses, govern the propriety of venue under Rule 12(b)(3). The same logic applies where, as here, a party seeks to enforce an arbitration agreement under Rule 12(b)(1). Just as a forum-selection clause has no bearing on the issue of whether venue is ‘wrong’ or ‘improper,’ an arbitration agreement has no relevance to the question of whether a given case satisfies constitutional or statutory definitions of jurisdiction.” The Eighth Circuit found that summary judgment standards should apply on remand because the parties submitted, and the district court considered, matters outside the pleadings. , Case No. 16-1949 (8th Cir. Aug. 11, 2017).