Submitted: December 11, 2018
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Kansas City
SMITH, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
of North America, Inc. ("Farmers") brings this
interlocutory appeal of the district
court's rulings interpreting an arbitration
agreement in an employment contract. As discussed herein, we
do not reach the merits of the appeal and dismiss for lack of
Webb sued Farmers for an alleged breach of the employment
contract that he and Farmers had signed, along with some
other related employment matters. Webb's employment
contract with Farmers included an arbitration clause. The
district court, upon review of the contract, found that the
parties' dispute is subject to arbitration pursuant to
the arbitration clause. Accordingly, the district court
granted Farmers's motion compelling arbitration and
stayed the proceeding pending the outcome of that
arbitration clause states that the American Arbitration
Association (AAA) rules will govern the arbitration. The
parties agree to that general statement, but they disagree as
to the effect of designating the AAA rules. Farmers asserts
that the contract's inclusion of the AAA rules mandates
that the AAA must also administer the
arbitration. Webb disagrees. He avers that the contract
only requires AAA rules be applied, which a non-AAA
arbitrator could do consistent with the contract. Reaching an
impasse, Webb's lawyer wrote a letter to the district
court (copying opposing counsel) seeking clarification on
this question. The district court agreed with Webb's
position and found that agreeing to arbitrate by AAA rules
did not necessitate that AAA itself arbitrate the dispute.
The court decided the contractual language in the arbitration
clause was ambiguous "at the very least." Webb
v. Farmers of N. Am., Inc., No. 4:16-cv-00080, 2017 WL
6813709, at *1 (W.D. Mo. Oct. 10, 2017). If Farmers
"intended for all disputes to be presented to the AAA
for arbitration," the district court explained,
"[Farmers] ought to have used such language in the
contract." Id. The district court then ordered
the parties "to work together to find a mutually
acceptable arbitrator." Id. at *2.
filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing that the AAA rules,
as applied through its contract with Webb, mandate that the
AAA administer this arbitration. We decline to weigh in on
the merits of Farmers's argument, however, because we
lack jurisdiction over the appeal. Subject matter
jurisdiction is a prerequisite for every appeal. For the
reasons explained below, none of Farmers's asserted bases
for jurisdiction suffice to enable this court's
asserts three bases for our jurisdiction: (1) the district
court's order compelling arbitration was a final order
pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C.
§ 16(a)(3); (2) the district court's denial of
Farmers's petition to arbitrate pursuant to the
parties' agreement creates jurisdiction under 9 U.S.C.
§ 16(a)(1)(B); and (3) the collateral order doctrine
applies. We address each in turn.
16(a)(3) "Final Decision"
first asserts jurisdiction exists pursuant to §16(a)(3)
of the FAA, which states "[a]n appeal may be taken from
. . . a final decision with respect to an arbitration that is
subject to this title." The Supreme Court has ruled that
a "final decision with respect to an arbitration"
under this statute is "a decision that ends the
litigation on the merits and leaves nothing more for the
court to do but execute the judgment." Green Tree
Fin. Corp.-Ala. v. Randolph, 531 U.S. 79, 86 (2000)
(cleaned up). When a district court enters a stay instead of
a dismissal, that order is not appealable. Id. at 87
n.2. Here, the district court's decision stayed the case
pending arbitration, but it did not dismiss the claims.
See, e.g., ON Equity Sales Co. v. Pals, 528
F.3d 564, 569 (8th Cir. 2008). This appeal, like
Pals, is not from a final decision. Id.
16(a)(1)(B) Denial of ...