San Antonio Court of Appeals - Pro Arbitration
by Michael Fox
The San Antonio Court of Appeals has been a strong enforcer of arbitration agreements and its latest opinion does not stray from that path. In Ambulance Billings Systems, Inc. v. Gemini Ambulance Services, Inc. (Ct. App. - San Antonio 1/22/03), the Court reversed a district court's refusal to order arbitration. Although not an employment case, the opinion deals with several of the key contract formation issues that are present in all arbitration cases. First, the court found the TAA, not the FAA, applicable. However, it did so on grounds of no evidenced, and relied on two cases which set a relatively low bar for for applicability of the FAA. (This is important because of the FAA pre-emption provision. If legislation introduced in the Texas House this term prohibiting arbitration of TCHR claims passes, the applicability of the FAA would be critical for employers.)
The Court also took a narrow view of when a court rather than the arbitrator should decide a question that the arbitration clause has been waived or abandoned. If it is only the arbitration clause that is at issue, it is the court's to determine; but if, as here, the waiver is of the whole contract, then that is properly the province of the arbitrator.