General principles of determining arbitrability as articulated by the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals in a recent appellate opinion.
"Whether an arbitration clause imposes a duty to arbitrate is a matter of contract interpretation and a question of law for the Court to review de novo." Ascendant Anesthesia PLLC v. Abazi, 348 S.W3d 454, 458 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2011, no pet.). "In a de novo review, the trial court's decision is given absolutely no deference." Id.
"A party seeking to compel arbitration under the FAA must establish that (1) there is a valid arbitration clause, and (2) the claims in dispute fall within that agreement's scope." In re Rubiola, 334 S.W.3d 220, 223 (Tex. 2011) (orig. proceeding); see In re East Rio Hondo Water Supply Corp., No. 13-12-538-CV, 2012 Tex. App. LEXIS 9098, at *10 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi Oct. 29, 2012, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.). "When deciding whether claims fall within an arbitration agreement, courts employ a strong presumption in favor of arbitration." In re Rubiola, 334 S.W.3d at 225.
"Nonetheless, the strong policy in favor of arbitration cannot serve to stretch a contractual clause beyond the scope intended by the parties or to allow modification of the unambiguous meaning of the arbitration clause." Osornia v. AmeriMex Motor & Controls, Inc., 367 S.W.3d 707, 712 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, no pet.).
However, if the facts alleged in support of the claim stand alone, are completely independent of the contract, and the claim could be maintained without reference to the contract, the claim is not subject to arbitration." Serv. Corp. Int'l v. Lopez, 162 S.W.3d 801, 810 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2005, no pet.); see Osornia, 367 S.W.3d at 714 n.4.; AutoNation USA Corp. v. Leroy, 105 S.W.3d 190, 195 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, orig. proceeding); see also In re Estate of Rowan, No. 05-06-681-CV, 2007 Tex. App. LEXIS 4466, at *8-9 (Tex. App.-Dallas June 7, 2007, no pet.) (mem. In construing the arbitration provision, we first determine whether it is possible to enforce the contract as written, without resort to parol evidence. J.M. Davidson, Inc. v. Webster, 128 S.W.3d 223, 229 (Tex. 2003).
In construing a written contract, the primary concern of the court is to ascertain the true intentions of the parties as expressed in the instrument. In re Guggenheim Corporate Funding LLC, 380 S.W.3d at 887 (citing J.M. Davidson, 128 S.W.3d at 229). In the arbitration context, we must give effect to the parties' intent, whether enforcing an agreement to arbitrate or construing an arbitration clause. Id. Following arbitration jurisprudence, we apply a common-sense examination of the underlying claim and the forum-selection clause to determine if the claim comes within the scope of the clause. Id. (citing In re Lisa Laser USA, Inc., 310 S.W.3d 880, 884 (Tex. 2010) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam)). "A contract is unambiguous if it can be given a definite or certain legal meaning." J.M. Davidson, 128 S.W.3d at 229. "On the other hand, if the contract is subject to two or more reasonable interpretations after applying the pertinent rules of construction, the contract is ambiguous, creating a fact issue on the parties' intent." Id. A contract is not ambiguous merely because the parties disagree on its meaning. Seagull Energy E & P, Inc. v. Eland Energy, Inc., 207 S.W.3d 342, 345 (Tex. 2006). The issue of contractual ambiguity may be considered sua sponte by a reviewing court. See Progressive Cnty. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Kelley, 284 S.W.3d 805, 808 (Tex. 2009). op.).