Venue of Arbitration Proceeding

Alliance Investment Co., LLC. v. Omni Construction Co., etc., [Ms. 1170504, Mar. 15, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). The Court (Bryan, J.; Parker, C.J., Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Sellers, JJ. concur; Mendheim, J., concurs in the result; Mitchell, J., recuses) reverses an order of the Madison Circuit Court determining the venue of an arbitration.

Alliance, a concrete subcontractor, sued KPS, the owner, and Omni Construction Company, the prime contractor, in a dispute over payment owed to Alliance for its work in constructing a Kroger grocery store. KPS and Omni invoked arbitration provisions in the prime and subcontract. Alliance did not oppose the motion to compel arbitration, and on August 28, 2017, the circuit court ordered the parties to arbitrate “in accordance with the terms of the agreements.” Ms. *2.

A dispute subsequently arose between the parties as to whether the arbitration proceedings should be held in Alabama or in Ohio where Omni and Kroger are based. Ms. *3. The circuit court entertained an “emergency motion to clarify order compelling arbitration” and ordered the parties to arbitrate in Ohio. Ms. *4. The contracts required that any dispute be arbitrated in accordance with Construction Industry Arbitration Rules. Rule 9(a) of those rules provides that “‘the 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.’” Ms. *7. Consequently, “[t]he circuit court lacked authority to order that the arbitration proceedings be held in Ohio.” Ms. *8.

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