United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: ARBITRATION
MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.
The Court has before it Defendant J.C. Ehrlich's Motion to Dismiss the Third Party Complaint and/or to Compel Arbitration of Third Party Plaintiff's Claims [Document 43], Home Properties' Opposition to Third Party Defendant J.C. Ehrlich's Motion to Dismiss the Third Party Complaint and/or to Compel Arbitration of Third Party Plaintiff's Claims and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment [Document 45], Third Party Defendant J.C. Ehrlich Co., Inc.'s Motion to Strike Home Properties' Surreply [Document 49], and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court finds a hearing unnecessary.
Plaintiff Annisnicole Williams ("Williams") rented an apartment (the "Unit") in the Hunters Glen Apartments ("Hunters Glen"), a subsidiary of Defendant/Third Party Plaintiff Home Properties, L.P. ("Home Properties"). Shortly after taking occupancy, Williams was bitten by bedbugs and vacated the Unit.
As discussed herein, before - and after - Williams' tenancy, Home Properties contracted with Third Party Defendant J.C. Ehrlich Co., Inc. ("JCE") for pest control services, including, but not limited to, bedbug treatments, at Hunters Glen generally and in the Unit specifically.
Williams filed the case against Home Properties in the Circuit Court for Frederick County, Maryland, and Home Properties removed to this Court. In the Complaint, Williams asserted claims in four Counts, of which two remain pending:
Count I Negligence
Count II Maryland Consumer Protection Act
Home Properties filed a Third Party Complaint, [Document 26], against JCE, asserting claims in three Counts:
Count I Contractual Indemnification
Count II Common Law Indemnification
Count III Contribution
II. ARBITRATION LEGAL STANDARD
A. Applicable Rule
By the instant motion, JCE seeks dismissal of all claims in the Third Party Complaint, contending that the Court lacks jurisdiction by virtue of an arbitration clause in a Bed Bug Limited Service Agreement between JCE and Hunters Glen dated July 16, 2012. JCE seeks dismissal pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "on the grounds that the parties have contractually agreed to binding arbitration." [Document 43] at 1.
It appears that there could be an academic debate as to which Rule of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure - e.g., Rule 12(b)(1) [subject matter jurisdiction], Rule 12(b)(6) [failure to state a claim], and/or Rule 56 [summary judgment] - is applicable, or most applicable, when a defendant seeks dismissal based on the presence of a mandatory arbitration provision. See 5B Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1350, nn. 14-15 (3d ed. 2004) (collecting cases). However, inasmuch as the issue before the Court is the extent to which, if at all, the Court has jurisdiction over the claims in the Third Party Complaint, the Court would, in any event, find Rule 12(b)(1) most appropriate. See [Document 15] in TECH USA, Inc. v. Belbot, et al., MJG-10-2351.
B. Legal Setting
The Federal Arbitration Act reflects a strong federal policy favoring arbitration, and courts are thus required to "rigorously enforce agreements to arbitrate." Shearson/American Exp., Inc. v. McMahon, 482 U.S. 220, 226 (1987). However, this liberal policy does not operate to compel arbitration of issues that do not fall within the scope of the parties' arbitration agreement.
Before compelling an unwilling party to arbitration, a court must "engage in a limited review to ensure that the dispute is arbitrable - i.e., that a valid agreement to arbitrate exists between the parties and that the specific dispute falls within the substantive scope of that agreement.'" Murray v. United Food and Commercial Workers Intern. Union, 289 F.3d 297, 302 (4th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). "The heavy presumption of arbitrability requires that when the scope of the arbitration clause is open to question, a court ...