Race to courthouse; arbitration wins

The plaintiffs in AFLAC v. Biles sued in state court, alleging that AFLAC paid death benefits to the wrong person, and that the signature on the policy application was forged.  No. 12-60235 (April 30, 2013).  AFLAC moved to compel arbitration in the state court case and simultaneously filed a new federal action to compel arbitration. The state court judge denied AFLAC’s motion without prejudice to refiling after discovery on the issue of the signatures’ validity.  In the meantime, the federal court granted AFLAC’s summary judgment motion and compelled arbitration after hearing expert testimony from both sides on the forgery issue.  The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding that Colorado River abstention in favor of the state case was not required, and that the order compelling arbitration was allowed by the Anti-Injunction Act because it was “necessary to protect or effectuate [the federal] order compelling arbitration.”  The Court also found no abuse of discretion in the denial of the respondents’ FRCP 56(e) motion, since it sought testimony that would only be relevant if the witness admitted outright to forgery.

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