Central WV Energy, Inc. v. Bayer Cropscience LP

A 1997 coal supply contract provided that "[a]ll disputes under" the agreement would be referred to arbitration in Charleston. The parties extended the 1997 Agreement until 2006, but disagree as to whether a series of emails effectuated extension through 2008. In July 2008, buyer and supplier signed a new contract with an increased price, providing for arbitration in Richmond and containing a merger clause. Buyer paid the higher price under protest, claiming that the 1997 agreement remained in effect and filed for arbitration in Charleston; supplier filed for arbitration in Richmond under the 2008 agreement. The Charleston panel found that the parties had extended the 1997 agreement and that the 2008 agreement was "a glaring breach" of the extension. The Richmond panel stayed proceedings. A Virginia district court dismissed supplier's suit. A West Virginia district court granted summary judgment for buyer. The Fourth Circuit upheld the West Virginia award under the Federal Arbitration Act 9 U.S.C. 10(a). The issue of which panel should decide the validity of the 2008 agreement was procedural, not jurisdiction, and did not require a decision in court. The Charleston panel based its jurisdiction on a plausible reading of the 1997 agreement.