The Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court order that the defendant waived its right to arbitrate by withdrawing a venue-based arbitration argument from its motion to dismiss. The arbitration clause in a joint venture agreement between the parties stated that “[a]ny matter in dispute, and which is not provided for in this agreement, shall be submitted to arbitration.” The plaintiff filed suit after a dispute arose, and the defendant moved to dismiss on various grounds, although it did not assert the arbitration provision. The district court ultimately granted the motion on jurisdictional grounds that were later cured. The defendant then moved to dismiss again, this time asserting improper venue based on the arbitration provision. Plaintiff’s counsel then wrote to defendant’s counsel demanding that the arbitration argument be withdrawn on the ground that it was waived, having not been asserted in the defendant’s first motion to dismiss. The argument was withdrawn the same day. One month later, the defendant moved to compel arbitration, claiming its earlier arbitration argument was not decided.
The district court denied the motion to compel based on express waiver and found no grounds to allow the defendant to rescind that waiver under these circumstances. The Seventh Circuit agreed, finding that withdrawing the arbitration argument was a litigation choice “inconsistent with the right to arbitrate.” The court was sure to note that a party does not automatically waive the right to file a motion to compel arbitration by failing to do so immediately. Here, however, “[h]aving put the arbitration card on the table and then taken it back,” the court held that the defendant “was not permitted to play that card again later.”
Brickstructures, Inc. v. Coaster Dynamix, Inc., No. 19-2187 (7th Cir. Mar. 11, 2020).