Federal Policy Remains that Arbitration Agreements and their Broad Construction are Favored

Plaintiff filed a seaman’s complaint alleging that he incurred injury while working as a crew member on one of the defendant’s vessels because the defendant negligently assigned plaintiff to activities that defendant knew or should have known would result in injury. Defendant filed a motion to stay litigation in favor of arbitration based on the Claims Arbitration Agreement that plaintiff had previously signed. When defendant moved to dismiss plaintiff’s lawsuit, attaching the arbitration agreement to its motion, plaintiff admitted that the arbitration agreement existed and, if applicable, would compel arbitration. Plaintiff’s opposition was that his claim was outside of the scope of the arbitration agreement because it covered only an injury to his right shoulder, while the claim in his lawsuit was brought for injuries to both shoulders and therefore was not a “known claim for a specific injury” at the time plaintiff entered into the arbitration agreement. Although the court acknowledged that investigation may ultimately reveal that plaintiff was bringing a claim for a new, distinct injury, the court found plaintiff’s pleadings insufficient to establish that fact. The court highlighted the federal policy favoring arbitration and the broad construction of the scope of arbitration agreements as it granted the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration and directed the parties to proceed with arbitration in accordance with the parties’ arbitration agreement.

Macrury v. American Steamship Company, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106704 (USDC EDMI, July 11, 2017).