South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Arbitration Association, Not Court, Determines How Many Arbitrators

Appeals court held that the courts do not decide whether one arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators should be used to settle a matter subject to arbitration. That is an issue determined by the rules of an arbitration association. Courts decide if a matter is subject to arbitration if that issue is raised.


Alternate Dispute Resolution

Key Words

Arbitration; Arbitrator Appointment; Judicial Determination

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Parties were involved in a dispute governed by the arbitration rules of the American Arbitration Association. AAA rules state that if the parties do not mutually agree on an arbitrator, the arbitrator will be chosen under AAA procedures. One party demanded a panel of three arbitrators; the other party wanted one arbitrator. Unable to agree on the number of arbitrators, the parties sued in court to have the matter settled. The trial court dismissed the suit, holding that the issue would be resolved under AAA rules. Plaintiffs appealed.


Affirmed. The question of whether a particular dispute will be handled by a single arbitrator or a panel is not a question for a court but for the arbitration association. The AAA has rules to determine such matters. The Federal Arbitration Act favors the use of the arbitration process and procedures to avoid litigating such matters when the parties have previously agreed on arbitration. The only question for a court would be whether in fact a matter was subject to arbitration or litigation.


Dockser v. Schwartzberg, 433 F.3d 421 (4th Cir., 2006)

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