JOHN D. WILLIAMS Plaintiff Below, Petitioner
KENNETH L. TUCKER and DEBORAH A. TUCKER Defendants Below, Respondents
Submitted: May 23, 2017
from the Circuit Court of Putnam County The Honorable Phillip
M. Stowers, Judge Civil Action No. 16-C-46
A. McMillan Daniel J. Cohn Bowles Rice LLP Charleston, West
Virginia Counsel for the Petitioner.
B. Atkins Atkins & Ogle Law Offices, LC Buffalo, West
Virginia Counsel for the Respondents.
JUSTICE WALKER delivered the Opinion of the Court.
JUSTICE WORKMAN concurs and reserves the right to file a
BY THE COURT
"The denial or granting of an injunction by a trial
court is discretionary and will not be disturbed upon an
appeal unless there is an absolute right for an injunction or
some abuses shown in connection with the denial or granting
thereof" Syllabus Point 6, West Virginia Bd. of
Dental Exam'rs v. Storch, 146 W.Va. 662, 122 S.E.2d
"Where the issue on appeal from the circuit court is
clearly a question of law or involving an interpretation of a
statute, we apply a de novo standard of
review." Syllabus Point 1, Chrystal R.M. v. Charlie
A.L., 194 W.Va. 138, 459 S.E.2d 415 (1995).
"Nothing in the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §
2, overrides normal rules of contract interpretation.
Generally applicable contract defenses-such as laches,
estoppel, waiver, fraud, duress, or unconscionability-may be
applied to invalidate an arbitration agreement."
Syllabus Point 9, Brown v. Genesis Healthcare Corp.,
228 W.Va. 646, 724 S.E.2d 250 (2011) (reversed on other
grounds by Marmet Health Care Ctr., Inc. v. Brown,
565 U.S. 530 (2012)).
the absence of an agreement to the contrary, waiver of a
contractual right to arbitration is a threshold question of
enforceability to be determined by a court, not an
"The common-law doctrine of waiver focuses on the
conduct of the party against whom waiver is sought, and
requires that party to have intentionally relinquished a
known right. A waiver may be express or may be inferred from
actions or conduct, but all of the attendant facts, taken
together, must amount to an intentional relinquishment of a
known right. There is no requirement of prejudice or
detrimental reliance by the party asserting waiver."
Syllabus Point 2, Parsons v. Halliburton Energy Services,
Inc., 237 W.Va. 138, 785 S.E.2d 844 (2016).
"A party to a binding, irrevocable arbitration cannot
unilaterally withdraw from participation in the arbitration
after it has begun. If a party to a binding irrevocable
arbitration unilaterally withdraws from the arbitration, the
claims or issues raised by the withdrawing party are
abandoned, thereby precluding them from being pursued in any
subsequent arbitration or civil action." Syllabus Point
1, Crihfield v. Brown, 224 W.Va. 407, 686 S.E.2d 58
John D. Williams ("Mr. Williams") appeals the June
17, 2016 order of the Circuit Court of Putnam County denying
his motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction to
prohibit Respondents Kenneth L. Tucker and Deborah A. Tucker
("the Tuckers") from pursuing their claims through
arbitration. Mr. Williams alleges the circuit court erred by
abdicating its authority to consider questions of waiver and
estoppel to an arbitrator. Mr. Williams further alleges that
the court erred in failing to find that the arbitration was
barred as a matter of law because (1) it constitutes an
impermissible collateral attack on a prior award in favor of
Mr. Williams; and (2) the Tuckers waived their right to
arbitration. Upon consideration of the parties' briefs,
oral argument,  the submitted record and pertinent
authorities, we reverse the circuit court's order.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Tuckers began investing with Mr. Williams's investment
firm in October 2007. At the outset of the professional
relationship between Mr. Williams and the Tuckers, the
parties entered into an Asset Management Agreement
("Agreement") on September 19, 2007. Among other
things, the Agreement specifically provides for arbitration
of disputes between the parties as follows:
Disputes - This agreement contains a
provision which requires that all claims arising between the
parties in respect to this Agreement shall be resolved
Client is aware that:
1. Arbitration is final and binding on all parties.
2. The parties are waiving their right to seek remedies in
court, including the right to a jury trial.
3. Pre-arbitration discovery is generally more limited than
and potentially different in form and scope than ...