Untangling the Webb of Arbitrability: The Fourth Circuit Holds That Courts Determine the Availability of Class-Wide Arbitration

By Andrew C. Glass, Robert W. Sparkes III, Loly G. Tor and Eric W. Lee

Is the availability of class-wide arbitration a “gateway” question for courts, or are arbitrators charged with such a decision once a matter is compelled to them? In Dell Webb Communities, Inc. v. Carlson, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals followed the lead of the Third and Sixth Circuits and held that courts — not arbitrators — should ordinarily make the decision. The Fourth Circuit’s decision should be welcome news to corporate defendants seeking to enforce individual (“bilateral”) arbitration agreements while preserving the ability to obtain meaningful appellate review of a determination allowing class-wide arbitration.

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