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Snyder v. Smith

June 7, 1984


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division. No. 80 C 00103 -- Stanley J. Roszkowski, Judge.

Bauer and Flaum, Circuit Judges, and Swygert, Senior Circuit Judge.

Author: Flaum

FLAUM, Circuit Judge.

This appeal from the district court's order confirming an arbitration award challenges that order on a number of grounds. The district court had ordered the parties to arbitration in Rockford, Illinois. In that order, the court held that it had personal jurisdiction over appellant Bruton Smith. The court further held that the arbitration clause was contained in a "contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce" and thus the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-14 (1982), was applicable to the dispute. Finally, the court held that it could compel arbitration to take place in the Northern District of Illinois even though the arbitration clause specified that any arbitration was to take place in Houston, Texas. After arbitration, the court confirmed the arbitration award, and Smith appealed. For the reasons stated below, we agree with the district court's holdings regarding personal jurisdiction and the applicability of the FAA, but we reverse the court's holding that it could compel arbitration in the Northern District of Illinois.


Appellee Eleanor Snyder is the executrix of the estate of Leroy Liljedahl. Liljedahl and appellant Smith, together with a third individual named Robert Hitt, were partners in Viking Investment Associates (Viking). The Viking partnership is limited to the ownership of certain property located in Harris County, Texas, and to any property purchased by the partnership within one mile of that property.

The partnership agreement was executed in September 1971. At that time, all three partners were Illinois residents.*fn1 The partnership mailing address was in Rockford, Illinois. For a period of time, Smith conducted the partnership's business from an office in Rockford.*fn2 The partnership borrowed money from and maintained a checking account with a bank in Rockford.

The partnership agreement provides that the death of a partner does not terminate the partnership but vests the surviving partners with the right to purchase the interest of the deceased partner. The agreement further provides that if the surviving partners or partner exercise the option to purchase, the parties are to attempt to agree on a purchase price; if the parties fail to agree on a price, the price shall be determined by arbitration. The partnership agreement states in pertinent part:

Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this agreement, or to the interpretation, breach or enforcement thereof, shall be submitted to three arbitrators and settled by arbitration in the City of Houston, Texas, . . . provided, however, . . . if the matter submitted to arbitration shall involve a [dispute] as to the [purchase price] of a deceased, . . . Partner's Entire Partnership Interest, such arbitration shall be held before three arbitrators, one of whom shall be a certified public accountant and the other two of whom shall be licensed real estate appraisers maintaining offices and doing business in Harris County, Texas. . . . Any award made by any majority of the Arbitrators shall be final, binding, and conclusive on all parties hereto for all purposes, and a judgment may be enforced thereon in any court having jurisdiction thereof.

Viking Partnership Agreement, Article VII.

Liljedahl died on December 9, 1976. On January 31, 1977, Smith notified Snyder by letter that he elected to purchase Liljedahl's entire interest.*fn3 At that time, Smith was a resident of Illinois and the letter bore a return address in Rockford, Illinois. At some time after January 1977, Smith became a resident of North Carolina.

The parties were unable to agree on a purchase price. Smith returned to Illinois several times to negotiate the price. On July 15, 1980, Snyder served Smith with written demand for arbitration. On July 28, Smith notified the American Arbitration Association that he refused to participate in the arbitration. On that date, Smith also filed suit in a Texas state court, requesting the court to establish a purchase price for the partnership interest and alleging a cause of action for breach of contract. Snyder removed the case to federal district court in Texas. On August 4, 1980, Snyder filed a petition to compel arbitration in the district court for the Northern District of Illinois under section 4 of the FAA, 9 U.S.C. § 4(1982). Smith moved to dismiss the Illinois action for improper service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. The matter was referred to a magistrate, who recommended that the court deny the motion to dismiss. On March 3, 1981, the court denied the motion. Smith subsequently submitted to the court a memorandum arguing that arbitration under the agreement could not take place in Illinois.

The district court in Texas, pursuant to agreement of the parties, entered an order staying its proceedings pending resolution of the Illinois action. On September 1, 1981, the district court in Illinois ordered the parties to arbitrate in Rockford, Illinois. Smith did not appeal that order.

On October 15, 1982, the arbitration panel awarded Snyder the sum of $549,755.00 plus administrative fees. Snyder applied to the district court in Illinois for an order confirming the arbitration award; Smith moved to vacate or modify the award. The court confirmed the ...

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