Arbitration

Motion to Compel Arbitration

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals

Grimsley v. Patterson Company, LLC, No. M2022-00987-COA-R3-CV, p. 3-4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 7, 2023). 

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that a trial court’s decision to grant or deny a motion to compel arbitration in the face of undisputed facts presents a question of law, which may be reviewed de novo “without a presumption of correctness afforded to the trial court’s conclusions.” Owens v. Nat’l Health Corp., 263 S.W.3d 876, 882 (Tenn. 2007), rev’d on other grounds, Welch v. Oaktree Health and Rehabilitation Ctr. LLC, 674 S.W.3d 881, 897 (Tenn. 2023); Wofford v. M.J. Edwards & Sons Funeral Homes Inc., 490 S.W.3d 800, 807 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2015). This is true because “[a] trial court’s order on a motion to compel arbitration addresses itself primarily to the application of contract law.” Rosenberg v. BlueCross BlueShield of Tenn., Inc., 219 S.W.3d 892, 903 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006). While sometimes the task of deciding “whether the parties have a valid arbitration agreement at all . . . requires the consideration of matters outside of the pleadings,” the Tennessee Supreme Court has recognized that other cases “attacking the agreement” on purely legal grounds “can be resolved solely as a matter of law.” Welch, 674 S.W.3d at 889 (quoting Elite Emergency Servs., LLC v. Stat Sols., LLC, No. M2008- 02793-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 845392, at *8 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 10, 2010)).

Stancil v. Dominion Crossville, LLC, No. E2021-01378-COA-R3-CV, p. 5 (Tenn. Ct. App. July 29, 2022). 

The general standards governing our review are well-settled:

[W]e review a grant or denial of a motion to compel arbitration under the same standards that apply to bench trials. Therefore, we will review the record de novo and will presume that the findings of fact are correct “unless the preponderance of the evidence is otherwise.” We will review the trial court’s resolution of legal issues without a presumption of correctness.

Mitchell v. Kindred Healthcare Operating, Inc., 349 S.W.3d 492, 496 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008) (internal citations omitted); see also Cabany v. Mayfield Rehab. & Special Care Ctr., No. M2006-00594-COA-R3-CV, 2007 WL 3445550, at *3 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 15, 2007) (noting that the “same standards that apply to bench trials” are used when reviewing the denial of a motion to compel arbitration).

Simmonetti v. McCormick, No. M2021-00754-COA-R3-CV, p. 4 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 24, 2022).

This Court’s review of a trial court’s grant or denial of a motion to compel arbitration is “governed by the same standards that apply to a bench trial.” Trigg v. Little Six Corp., 457 S.W.3d 906, 911 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014) (citing Mitchell v. Kindred Healthcare Operating, Inc., 349 S.W.3d 492, 496 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008)). Accordingly, we review the trial court’s conclusions of law de novo without a presumption of correctness,” and “[w]e review the trial court’s findings of fact de novo with a presumption of correctness unless the evidence preponderates otherwise.” Jones v. Allenbrooke Nursing & Rehabilitation Ctr. LLC, No. W2019-00448-COA-R3-CV, 2019 WL 6842372, at *2 (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 16, 2019) (citing Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d)).

Williams v Smyrna Residential, LLC, No. M2021-00927-COA-R3-CV, p. 5 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 8, 2022).

In Trigg v. Little Six Corp., a case involving a Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9 interlocutory appeal of a trial court’s decision on a motion to compel arbitration, this Court articulated the standard of review for a trial court’s grant or denial of a motion to compel arbitration as follows:

Our review of a trial court’s grant or denial of a motion to compel arbitration is governed by the same standards that apply to a bench trial. Mitchell v. Kindred Healthcare Operating, Inc., 349 S.W.3d 492, 496 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2008). As we observed in Rosenberg v. BlueCross BlueShield of Tenn., Inc., 219 S.W.3d 892, 903-04 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2006),

[a]s a general rule, a court’s enforcement of an arbitration provision is reviewed de novo. See Cooper v. MRM Inv. Co., 367 F.3d 493, 497 (6th Cir. 2004). A trial court’s order on a motion to compel arbitration addresses itself primarily to the application of contract law. We review such an order with no presumption of correctness on appeal. See Pyburn v. Bill Heard Chevrolet, 63 S.W.3d 351, 356 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2001); see also Nelson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 8 S.W.3d 625, 629 (Tenn. 1999). However, to the extent that findings of fact are necessary concerning the “cost-prohibitive” nature of the arbitration sought, these findings come to us with a presumption of correctness absent a preponderance of evidence to the contrary. Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d); T.R. Mills Contractors v. WRH Enterprises, LLC et al., 93 S.W.3d 861, 864 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2002).

Trigg v. Little Six Corp. 457 S.W.3d 906, 911 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014). There are no disputed facts relevant to the issues on appeal. The appeal at bar presents purely legal questions, which we review de novo without a presumption of correctness.

 

 

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