TotalEnergies E&P USA, Inc. v. MP Gulf of Mexico, LLC
AAA Commercial Rule 7(a) provides that an arbitrator “shall have the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement or to the arbitrability of any claim or counterclaim.” Relying on that passage, the Supreme Court of Texas confirmed what most of us thought we already knew, holding that, “as a general rule, an agreement to arbitrate in accordance with the AAA or similar rules constitutes a clear and unmistakable agreement that the arbitrator,” not a court, “must decide whether the parties’ disputes must be resolved through arbitration”—i.e., questions of arbitrability. The Court buttressed its pronouncement with a comprehensive review of other courts’ decisions on the issue, which revealed that “the vast majority of federal circuit courts and other state supreme courts have reached this same conclusion.”
But the TotalEnergies arbitration agreement came with a wrinkle. It said:
If any dispute or controversy arises between the parties out of this Agreement, the alleged breach thereof, or any tort in connection therewith, … the same shall be submitted to arbitration . . . in accordance with the rules of the AAA and the provisions in this Article.