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Havard v. Offshore Specialty Fabricators, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 21, 2019

RONALD HAVARD
v.
OFFSHORE SPECIALTY FABRICATORS, LLC

         SECTION F

          ORDER AND REASONS

          MARTIN L. C. FELDMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Steamship Mutual Underwriting Association Limited's motion to compel arbitration and stay litigation. For the reasons that follow, the motion is GRANTED.

         Background

         This is a Jones Act personal injury case. On January 24, 2014 Ronald Havard was working as a seaman for Offshore Specialty Fabricators, LLC aboard the Betty “R” Gamberlina when a tow cable broke, causing him to fall and injure his back and other parts of his body.

         Havard sued Offshore Specialty Fabricators, LLC (“OSF”), his employer and the owner and operator of Betty “R” Gamberlina, alleging Jones Act negligence, negligence under general maritime law, unseaworthiness, and entitlement to maintenance and cure. OSF later filed for bankruptcy and the matter was stayed. The bankruptcy stay was lifted in December 2018. On May 30, 2019, on the eve of trial, Havard filed a first amended complaint, adding Steamship Mutual Underwriting Association Limited (“Steamship”) as a direct defendant pursuant to the Louisiana Direct Action Statute, La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 22:1269.[1] Trial was continued. Steamship now seeks an order compelling arbitration and requests that this litigation be stayed.

         I.

         A.

         Determining the arbitrability of disputes governed by the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards is well settled.[2]

The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (“the Convention”) governs cases in which a party seeks to compel arbitration outside of the United States. The United States joined the Convention in 1970. Congress implemented the Convention by enacting Chapter 2 of Title 9 of the United States Code (“the Convention Act”). The Supreme Court has explained that “[t]he goal of the Convention was to encourage the recognition and enforcement of commercial arbitration agreements in international contracts and to unify the standards by which agreements to arbitrate are observed and arbitral awards are enforced in the signatory countries.” The Convention applies to arbitration agreements between citizens of nations that are signatories to the Convention. The United States, Luxembourg, and England are all signatories.
“The Convention Act incorporates the entire Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) to the extent that the two do not conflict. The FAA governs the validity and enforceability of an agreement to arbitrate in the United States and explicitly applies to any maritime transaction. A district court's power to order arbitration under the FAA, however, is limited to arbitrations that will take place “[w]ithin the district in which the petition for an order directing such arbitration is filed.” As a result, the Convention governs when a party seeks to compel arbitration outside the United States.”

Authenment v. Ingram Barge Co., 878 F.Supp.2d 672, 676-77 (E.D. La. 2012)(internal citations, quotations omitted)(Milazzo, J.).

         The Convention and the Convention Act do not explicitly authorize a stay of litigation pending arbitration. Todd v. Steamship Mut. Underwriting Ass'n (Bermuda) Ltd., 601 F.3d 329, 332 (5th Cir. 2010). Nevertheless, “parties whose arbitration agreements fall under the Convention have had to seek authority for stays” under the FAA, 9 U.S.C. § 3. Id. Under the Convention and the FAA, arbitration must be compelled “if there is a) an agreement in writing to arbitrate the dispute; b) the agreement provides for arbitration in the territory of a Convention signatory; c) the agreement arises out of a commercial legal relationship; and d) a ...


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