No jurisdiction over petition to compel arbitration

In a dispute about termination of a Volvo truck franchise, Volvo sued the dealership under section 4 of the Federal Arbitration Act to compel arbitration.  Volvo Trucks v. Crescent Ford Truck Sales, No. 09-30782 (Jan. 5, 2012).  Both businesses were Delaware corporations.  The district court found federal question jurisdiction because some relief requested involved interpretation of a federal statute.  The Fifth Circuit applied the “look-through” approach of the Supreme Court in Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U.S. 49 (2009), under which a court first “assume[s] the absence of the arbitration agreement” to determine if federal jurisdiction would exist without it.  Under Vaden, the Court found that the substantive issues in dispute were governed by state law.  Op. at 6-9.  It also found that the federal issue on which declaratory relief was requested did not create jurisdiction because it “arises only as a defense or in anticipation of a defense.”  Op. at 12.

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