By Russ Bleemer
If the U.S. Supreme Court appeared frustrated at last month’s arbitration argument in Henry Schein Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc., No. 19-963, this morning’s one-line decision confirmed it.
The Court today dismissed the entire case without a decision on the merits. The entire per curiam decision: “The writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted.”
You can view it on the Supreme Court’s website here.
The immediate effect is that respondent Archer and White Sales sees a big win: It will get the determination of whether its long-running case over a medical equipment contract dispute is to be arbitrated made by a judge, not an arbitrator. A Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision now stands. See Archer & White Sales, Inc. v. Henry Schein, Inc., 935 F.3d 274 (5th Cir. 2019) (available at http://bit.ly/2NC7EmL).
Archer and White contended that a delegation agreement sending a matter to arbitration did not “clearly and unmistakably” send the case to arbitration because of a contract carve-out for injunctions.
With a one-line dismissal, it’s unknown why the Court did what it did. In shutting down the case, it may be backing Archer and White’s and the Fifth Circuit’s view.
Or it may have reconsidered a point that Henry Schein’s successor status to the contract didn’t sustain its arbitration demand.
Or, in a point returned to repeatedly in last month’s argument, the Court may have botched the case on its own. When it granted Henry Schein’s cert petition on June 15 on the carve-out issue, the Supreme Court simultaneously rejected Archer and White’s cross petition challenging the determination of arbitrability of the case on a question of incorporation by reference. The cross petition contended that the “clear and unmistakable” evidence of an intent to arbitrate was insufficient; the contract incorporated American Arbitration Association rules that include a provision that arbitrators decide arbitrability.
Even though the Court rejected the cross-petition, the issue returned in the December arguments, at times overwhelming the discussion of the question of the carve-out’s effect. For more on the argument, see “Schein II: Argument in Review,” CPR Speaks (Dec. 9) (available at http://bit.ly/2VXfyIa).
One thing is certain: The Court won’t use a follow-up petition to address the incorporation-by-reference issue, which would have interpreted the standard from the Court’s seminal decision on arbitrability, First Options of Chicago Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 944 (1995) (available at https://bit.ly/39fAwcR).
That’s because a case that a petitioner and an amicus stated presented the issue cleanly—unencumbered by the carve-out issue and Henry Schein’s long history, including a 2019 U.S. Supreme Court decision—was denied certiorari 30 minutes ahead of today’s one-line opinion. Details on the Court’s cert denial in Piersing v. Domino’s Pizza Franchising LLC, No. 20-695, are available on CPR Speaks here.
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The author edits Alternatives for the CPR Institute.