Wise v. Tidal Const. Co., Inc.

Citation261 Ga. App. 670,583 S.E.2d 466
Decision Date23 May 2003
Docket NumberNo. A03A0859.,A03A0859.
CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)

583 S.E.2d 466
261 Ga.
App. 670

WISE et al.

No. A03A0859.

Court of Appeals of Georgia.

May 23, 2003.

Reconsideration Denied June 16, 2003.

583 S.E.2d 467
Eugene C. Brooks IV, Savannah, Christopher M. Kessinger, for appellants

Misner, Scott & Martin, Allison M. Lawler, Royal & Vaughan, Jeffrey S. Vaughan, Savannah, for appellee.


This is an interlocutory appeal from the trial court's stay and order for mandatory arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, [261 Ga. App. 671] because Mary L. Rose Wise and Nell Lackman, plaintiffs, contend that Tidal Construction Company, Inc.'s inconsistent actions (proceeding with discovery, motion for summary judgment, entry of a pre-trial order, and jury selection) waived the right to arbitration.1 Finding that Tidal Construction's inconsistent conduct constituted a waiver of the arbitration agreement, we reverse.

On October 16, 2000, the builder-sellers, Tidal Construction Company, Inc., C.L. Stafford Building Contractor, Inc., and C.L. Stafford were sued by the purchasers Mary L. Rose Wise and Nell Lackman for negligence, negligence per se, breach of implied warranty of good workmanship, and breach of contract as to the implied duty of good workmanship for estimated special damages of 199,000, because the new house, which was sold to them for 138,000, was built over a buried wood debris field. On December 5, 2000, Tidal Construction answered and stated "[t]his matter may be subject to mandatory binding arbitration pursuant to the contract or contracts between this [sic] parties and should be dismissed."

583 S.E.2d 468
The parties proceeded with litigation and went through extensive discovery, including some eight depositions. On October 24, 2001, Tidal Construction moved for summary judgment based upon the discovery. In November 2001, the case came on the trial calendar but was continued by agreement to complete discovery. On February 13, 2002, the parties entered into a consolidated pre-trial order without Tidal Construction again raising the issue of mandatory arbitration. On February 20, 2002, the trial court set the case for trial on the calendar for March 21-April 17, 2002. Finally, on March 7, 2002, Tidal Construction moved for a stay for mandatory arbitration and to amend the pre-trial order to assert such defense. The plaintiffs dismissed their warranty claims under the construction contract; also, they dismissed the claims against Stafford and his company to avoid the arbitration issue. On March 20, 2002, the parties struck a jury for the special trial set for April 21, 2002. On September 18, 2002, the trial court granted the stay and ordered arbitration, which earlier order had been misfiled and not sent to the parties. By March 7, 2002, when Tidal Construction filed its demand for arbitration, the plaintiffs' trial preparation expenses exceeded 11,000

The basis for Tidal Construction's demand for mandatory arbitration was: on March 16, 1997, the parties entered into a sales contract, providing the special condition that the "SELLER TO FURNISH [261 Ga. App. 672] A 2/10 HOME WARRANTY." On March 26, 1997, Tidal Construction complied by issuing a "Workmanship/Systems and Structural Limited Warranty," which was administered by the Home Buyers Warranty Corporation and insured by National Home Insurance Company, foreign corporations; Mary L. Rose signed the application for this home enrollment under this express warranty. Attached to the application was the "Home Buyers Warranty Booklet," which included mandatory arbitration of all claims arising in warranty, contract, fraud, or tort under the FAA. The express written warranty was issued to the plaintiffs as part of the sale contract, which incorporated the warranty booklet with the mandatory arbitration clause under the FAA.

1. Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in compelling arbitration, because they did not allege a violation of the Home Buyers Warranty, causing the arbitration clause to be invoked. We do not agree.

The arbitration clause provided that the mandatory arbitration come under the FAA, 9 USC §§ 1-16, excluding any contrary provisions of state law. Issues as to the applicability of and the scope of arbitration were matters for arbitration under the arbitration clause. Plaintiffs agreed to such provisions for arbitration.

Plaintiffs sought to avoid arbitration by abandoning their warranty claims; however, both breach of contract and negligence claims come within the mandatory arbitration clause, as well as warranty claims, and do not violate Georgia public policy by requiring such issues to be arbitrated. Haynes v. Fincher, 241 Ga.App. 179, 180(1), 525 S.E.2d 405 (1999). "[A]ny doubts concerning the scope of arbitrable issues should be resolved in favor of arbitration." Moses H. Cone Mem. Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 24-25, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983). In this case, the arbitration clause stated that it was to cover "[a]ny and all disputes and controversies arising under or relating to this Agreement," and therefore, was intended to be broad enough in scope to reach all disputes.

We believe that, as a matter of law, the arbitration clause in the 1990 Agreement is broad. The clause provides that arbitration is the exclusive remedy available to the parties to settle controversies or claims that not only arise from the 1990 Agreement but also those relating to the contract. The Second Circuit considered language nearly identical to the language here, calling it "the paradigm of a broad clause." Collins & Aikman Prods. Co. v. Building Sys., Inc., 58 F.3d 16, 20 (2d Cir.1995). Such a provision constitutes the broadest language the parties could reasonably use to subject their disputes to that form of settlement, including collateral [261 Ga. App. 673] disputes that relate to the agreement
583 S.E.2d 469
containing the clause.... Where a broad arbitration clause is in effect, even the question of whether the controversy relates to the agreement containing the clause is subject to arbitration.

(Citation, punctuation and footnote omitted.) Fleet Tire Svc. of North Little Rock v. Oliver Rubber Co., 118 F.3d 619, 621 (8th Cir.1997). A party may not avoid a...

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    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 31, 2005
    ...trial in that civil action. In contrast, Georgia courts have upheld arbitration agreements. See, e.g., Wise v. Tidal Const. Co., Inc., 261 Ga.App. 670, 583 S.E.2d 466, 471 (2003) ("Under the FAA, written agreements to arbitrate contained in contracts involving interstate commerce are valid ......
  • West v. Bowser, A21A0055
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • August 19, 2022
    ...rights, including the right to trial by jury to obtain a quick and simple resolution of the dispute." Wise v. Tidal Construction Co. , 261 Ga. App. 670, 674 (2), 583 S.E.2d 466 (2003). See also Greene v. Hundley , 266 Ga. 592, 595 (2), 468 S.E.2d 350 (1996) ; Burnham v. Cooney , 265 Ga. App......
  • West v. Bowser, A21A0055
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
    • August 19, 2022
    ...rights, including the right to trial by jury to obtain a quick and simple resolution of the dispute." Wise v. Tidal Construction Co., 261 Ga.App. 670, 674(2), 583 S.E.2d 466 (2003). See also Greene v. Hundley, 266 Ga. 592, 595(2), 468 S.E.2d 350 (1996); Burnham v. Cooney, 265 Ga.App. 246, 2......
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    ...opinions pertaining to arbitration clauses in HBW warranty applications is also misplaced. In Wise v. Tidal Construction Company, Inc., 261 Ga.App. 670 (2003) 583 S.E.2d 466 (Wise), the plaintiff signed an application for a warranty, and attached to the application was a "`Home Buyers Warra......
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