Casarotto v. Lombardi, No. 93-488

Docket NºNo. 93-488
Citation268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931
Case DateDecember 15, 1994
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

Page 931

886 P.2d 931
268 Mont. 369, 63 USLW 2443
Paul CASAROTTO and Pamela Casarotto, Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
Nick LOMBARDI and Doctor's Associates, Inc., Defendants and
Respondents,
and
Daniel L. and Deb Hudson, and D & D Subway Corporation, Defendants.
No. 93-488.
Supreme Court of Montana.
Submitted April 19, 1994.
Decided Dec. 15, 1994.

Page 932

[268 Mont. 370] Grant D. Parker (argued), and Philip D. Tawney, Mullendore, Tawney & Watt, Missoula, for appellants.

Alan G. Schwartz (argued), and Ian E. Bjorkman, Wiggin & Dana, New Haven, CT, L.D. Nybo, Conklin, Nybo, LeVeque & Murphy, Great Falls, for respondents.

Lawrence A. Anderson, Great Falls, for amicus curiae Montana Trial Lawyers Ass'n.

Michael A. Bowen and Michael G. McCarty, Foley & Lardner, Milwaukee, WI, for amici curiae Intern. Franchise Ass'n, Securities Industry Ass'n, Snap-On Tools Corp.

TRIEWEILER, Justice.

Plaintiffs Paul and Pamela Casarotto filed this suit in the District Court for the Eighth Judicial District in Cascade County to recover damages which they claim were caused by the defendants' breach of contract and tortious conduct. Defendants Nick Lombardi and Doctor's Associates, Inc. (DAI), moved the District Court for an order dismissing plaintiffs' complaint, or in the alternative, staying further [268 Mont. 371] judicial proceedings pending arbitration of plaintiffs' claims pursuant to a provision in DAI's franchise agreement with plaintiffs which required that disputes "arising out of or relating to" that contract be settled by arbitration. The District Court granted defendants' motion, and ordered that further judicial proceedings be stayed until arbitration proceedings were completed in accordance with the terms of the parties' agreement. Plaintiffs appeal from that order. We reverse the order of the District Court.

The issues raised on appeal are:

1. Based on conflict of law principles, is the franchise agreement entered into between the Casarottos and DAI governed by Connecticut law or Montana law?

2. If the contract is governed by Montana law, is the notice requirement in § 27-5-114(4), MCA, of Montana's Uniform Arbitration Act, preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act found at 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-15 (1988)?

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 29, 1992, Paul and Pamela Casarotto filed an amended complaint naming Doctor's Associates, Inc., and Nick Lombardi as defendants. For purposes of our review of the District Court's order, we presume the facts alleged in the complaint to be true.

DAI is a Connecticut corporation which owns Subway Sandwich Shop franchises, and Lombardi is their development agent in Montana. The Casarottos entered into a franchise agreement with DAI which allowed them to open a Subway Sandwich Shop in Great Falls, Montana. However, they were told by Lombardi that their first choice for a location in Great Falls was unavailable.

According to their complaint, the Casarottos agreed to open a shop at a less desirable location, based on a verbal agreement with Lombardi that when their preferred location became available, they would have the exclusive right to open a store at that location.

Page 933

Contrary to that agreement, the preferred location was subsequently awarded by Lombardi and DAI to another franchisee. As a result, the Casarottos' business suffered irreparably, and they lost their business, along with the collateral which secured their SBA loan.

This action is based on the Casarottos' allegation that Lombardi and DAI breached their agreement with the Casarottos, defrauded them, breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and engaged in other tortious conduct, all of which directly caused the Casarottos loss of business and the resulting damage.

[268 Mont. 372] DAI's franchise agreement with the Casarottos was executed on April 25, 1988. There was no indication on the first page of the contract that it was subject to arbitration. However, paragraph 10(c) of the contract, found on page 9, included the following provision:

Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract or the breach thereof shall be settled by Arbitration in accordance with the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association at a hearing to be held in Bridgeport, Connecticut and judgment upon an award rendered by the Arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. The commencement of arbitration proceedings by an aggrieved party to settle disputes arising out of or relating to this contract is a condition precedent to the commencement of legal action by either party. The cost of such a proceeding will be born equally by the parties.

On January 29, 1993, DAI moved the District Court to dismiss the Casarottos' complaint, or at least stay further judicial proceedings, pending arbitration pursuant to paragraph 10(c) of the franchise agreement. DAI alleged that the franchise agreement affected interstate commerce, and therefore, was subject to the Federal Arbitration Act found at 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-15 (1988). They sought a stay of proceedings pursuant to § 3 of that Act, which provides in relevant part that:

If any suit or proceeding be brought in any of the courts of the United States upon any issue referable to arbitration under an agreement in writing for such arbitration, the court in which such suit is pending, upon being satisfied that the issue involved in such suit or proceeding is referable to arbitration under such an agreement shall on application of one of the parties stay the trial of the action until such arbitration has been had in accordance with the terms of the agreement....

DAI claimed that Montana law could not be raised as a bar to enforcement of the arbitration provision for two reasons: First, the contract specifically called for the application of Connecticut law; and second, Montana law was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act.

The Casarottos opposed DAI's motion on the grounds that Montana law applied, in spite of the choice of law provision in the contract, and that based on § 27-5-114(4), MCA, the contract's arbitration provision was unenforceable because DAI had not provided notice on the first page of the agreement that the contract was subject to arbitration.

[268 Mont. 373] On June 2, 1993, the District Court issued its order granting DAI's motion to stay further judicial proceedings pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 3. The order was made applicable to both DAI and Lombardi, but not to other named defendants who were not parties to the franchise agreement and whose alleged conduct raises other issues. On July 8, 1993, the District Court issued an order pursuant to Rule 54(b), M.R.Civ.P., certifying its June 2 order as final for purposes of appeal. The Casarottos appeal from that order.

ISSUE 1

Based on conflict of law principles, is the franchise agreement entered into between the Casarottos and DAI governed by Connecticut law or Montana law?

Paragraph 12 of the franchise agreement entered into between the parties provides as follows: "This agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of Connecticut and contains the entire understanding of the parties." DAI

Page 934

contends that, therefore, Connecticut law governs our interpretation of the contract and that since Connecticut law is identical to the Federal Arbitration Act see Conn.Gen.Stat. § 52-409 (1993), conspicuous notice that the contract was subject to arbitration was not required and we need not concern ourselves with the issue of whether Montana law is preempted.

The Casarottos respond that the issue of whether to apply Connecticut or Montana law involves a conflict of law issue and that the answer can be found in our prior decisions. We agree.

In Emerson v. Boyd (1991), 247 Mont. 241, 805 P.2d 587, we cited with approval the Ninth Circuit's decision in R.J. Williams Co. v. Fort Belknap Housing Authority (9th Cir.1983), 719 F.2d 979, which adopted the criteria established in Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 188 (1971) to determine which jurisdiction's laws apply to a contract where no choice of law is provided for in the contract. Section 188 provides as follows:

(1) The rights and duties of the parties with respect to an issue in contract are determined by the local law of the state which, with respect to that issue, has the most significant relationship to the transaction and the parties under the principles stated in § 6.

(2) In the absence of an effective choice of law by the parties (see § 187), the context to be taken into account in applying the principles of § 6 to determine the law applicable to an issue include:

(a) the place of contracting,

[268 Mont. 374] (b) the place of negotiation of the contract,

(c) the place of performance,

(d) the location of the subject matter of the contract, and

(e) the domicil, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties.

These contracts are to be evaluated according to their relative importance with respect to the particular issue.

(3) If the place of negotiating the contract and the place of performance are in the same state, the local law of this state will usually be applied, except as otherwise provided in §§ 189-199 and 203.

In this case, there is a choice of law provision in the parties' contract. The question is whether it was an "effective" choice. We recently held in Youngblood v. American States Ins. Co. (1993), 262 Mont. 391, 394, 866 P.2d 203, 205, that this State's public policy will ultimately determine whether choice of law provisions in contracts are "effective." In that case, we stated:

Here, the general policy language in the insurance contract requires American States to pay whatever damages are required in Montana; that is, the contract is to be performed in Montana. Therefore, unless a contract term provides otherwise, Kemp [v. Allstate Ins. Co. (1979), 183 Mont. 526, 601 P.2d 20] and § 28-3-102,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
30 practice notes
  • Masters Grp. Int'l, Inc. v. Comerica Bank, No. DA 14–0113.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • July 1, 2015
    ...established public policy. Youngblood, 262 Mont. at 400, 866 P.2d at 208. We expanded upon the Youngblood rule in Casarotto v. Lombardi, 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931 (1994), rev'd on other grounds, Doctor's Assocs., Inc. v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681, 689, 116 S.Ct. 1652, 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 902 ......
  • Bixler v. Next Fin. Grp., Inc., No. CV 11–2–H–CCL.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)
    • March 14, 2012
    ...forum state, which is Montana. An application of §§ 187(2) of the Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws, see Casarotto v. Lombardi, 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931, 934–35 (1994), rev'd on other grounds, Doctor's Assocs. Inc. v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681, 116 S.Ct. 1652, 134 L.Ed.2d 902 (1996)......
  • Chase v. Blue Cross of California, No. A068199
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 1996
    ...that context, courts have used the term "waiver" under circumstances more akin to estoppel. 15 In Casarotto v. Lombardi (1994) 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931, 933, 939, the Montana Supreme Court held that state law requiring notice of an arbitration agreement on the first page of the......
  • Stowe v. Big Sky Vacation Rentals, Inc., DA 18-0614
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • December 17, 2019
    ...preempted by the FAA. Casarotto , 517 U.S. at 684-89, 116 S. Ct. at 1654-57 (second reversal of our decision in Casarotto v. Lombardi , 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931 (1994), cert. granted, judgment vacated sub nom. Doctor’s Assocs., Inc. v. Casarotto , 515 U.S. 1129, 115 S. Ct. 2552, 132 L.Ed......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • Chase v. Blue Cross of California, No. A068199
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 1996
    ...14 In that context, courts have used the term "waiver" under circumstances more akin to estoppel. 15 In Casarotto v. Lombardi (1994) 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931, 933, 939, the Montana Supreme Court held that state law requiring notice of an arbitration agreement on the first page of the con......
  • Doctor's Associates, Inc. v. Distajo
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • September 28, 1995
    ...190 Ill.Dec. 885, 622 N.E.2d 1202 (1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1069, 127 L.Ed.2d 388 (1994); Casarotto v. Lombardi, 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931 (1994), vacated and remanded, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 2552, 132 L.Ed.2d 807 The relationship between DAI and the Bickels' landlo......
  • Northport Health Servs. of Ark., LLC v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., CASE NO. 5:19-CV-5168
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Arkansas
    • April 7, 2020
    ...enforceable, they be entered knowingly.’ " Id. at 685, 116 S.Ct. 1652 (quoting the state supreme court decision, Casarotto v. Lombardi , 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931, 939 (1994) ). The Supreme Court reversed. It held that the FAA preempted the state notice requirement because, in enforcing t......
  • Masters Grp. Int'l, Inc. v. Comerica Bank, No. DA 14–0113.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • July 1, 2015
    ...established public policy. Youngblood, 262 Mont. at 400, 866 P.2d at 208. We expanded upon the Youngblood rule in Casarotto v. Lombardi, 268 Mont. 369, 886 P.2d 931 (1994), rev'd on other grounds, Doctor's Assocs., Inc. v. Casarotto, 517 U.S. 681, 689, 116 S.Ct. 1652, 1657, 134 L.Ed.2d 902 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT