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Caution: Inconsistent arbitration agreements might cancel each other out

If parties have multiple agreements governing their re­la­tionship(s), and those agreements all contain arbitration provisions, then it would behoove the drafters to make sure the various arbitration pro­vi­sions are consistent. In a Tenth Circuit case, the parties’ failure to do so led to a court refusing to com­pel arbitration, on grounds that the conflicting arbitration provisions  —  all of which applied to the dispute in question, according to the district court — meant that the parties had not reached a meet­ing of the minds about arbitration. See Ragab v. Howard, No. 15-1444 (10th Cir. Nov. 21, 2016) (af­firm­ing district court, with one dissenting vote; citing cases).

Hat tip:  arbitration maven Liz Kramer, who sum­mar­ized the case in Fuzzy Math? 6 Differing Arbitration Agree­ments = 0 Arb­i­tra­tion Agree­ment (Arbi­tra­tionNation 2016). Kramer notes that “[the] arb­i­tra­tion agreements did not provide for the same set of rules to gov­ern the arbitration, or the same method of choosing an arbitrator, or the same notice period before arbitration, or the same opportunity to recover attorneys’ fees.”

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