Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc.

Justia Summary

Archer sued Schein, alleging violations of federal and state antitrust law and seeking both money damages and injunctive relief. The contract between the parties provided for arbitration of any dispute arising under or related to the agreement, except for actions seeking injunctive relief. Schein argued that because the rules governing the contract provide that arbitrators have the power to resolve arbitrability questions, an arbitrator—not the court—should decide whether the arbitration agreement applied. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of Schein’s motion to compel arbitration.

A unanimous Supreme Court vacated. Under the Federal Arbitration Act, arbitration is a matter of contract. Courts must enforce arbitration contracts according to their terms. The parties may agree to have an arbitrator decide not only the merits of a particular dispute but also “gateway” questions of “arbitrability.” When the parties’ contract delegates the arbitrability question to an arbitrator, a court may not override the contract, even if the court thinks that the arbitrability claim is wholly groundless. The Court declined “to redesign the Act” and noted that the Act contains no “wholly groundless” exception. Arbitrators are capable of efficiently disposing of frivolous cases and deterring frivolous motions; such motions do not appear to have caused a substantial problem in Circuits that have not recognized a “wholly groundless” exception. The Fifth Circuit may address whether this contract actually delegated the arbitrability question to an arbitrator on remand.