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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:John Bohler bought materials to construct a prefabricated building from Heritage Building Systems Inc. The purchase contract included an arbitration clause. After he received the materials, Bohler sued Heritage for faulty engineering and manufacturing of components. Heritage filed a plea in abatement, saying Bohler’s claims had to be submitted to arbitration. Just over two months later, July 7, 2005, Bohler filed a motion to have the case referred to mediation. On July 16, Heritage filed a motion to enforce the arbitration agreement. The trial court granted Bohler’s motion, ordering that mediation take place no later than Oct. 27. On Oct. 14, Heritage filed for a writ of mandamus to have the trial court’s order to mediate set aside. HOLDING:Writ conditionally granted. The court notes that Bohler does not dispute that the Federal Arbitration Act applies to the arbitration clause in the purchase agreement; he also does not dispute that his dispute with Heritage would fall within the scope of the clause. The court notes that the FAA says that if there is a valid arbitration agreement, and the dispute falls within the agreement’s scope, then a trial court is supposed to refer the matter to arbitration and to stay the proceedings in its court. Bohler argues, however, that the Texas policy of encouraging settlements is furthered by letting a trial court refer a case to mediation prior to sending it to arbitration, regardless of what the FAA says about the issue. “But, does the trial court, prior to enforcing an arbitration clause under the FAA, have the discretion to enter other orders that do not constitute a trial? Does the FAA allow the trial court to exercise control of the litigation for everything prior to the trial date? Clearly, allowing the trial court to interpose mediation would result in some additional delay and some additional expense in implementing the dispute resolution to which the parties contractually agreed.” Calling this a matter of first impression, the court concludes that the FAA’s stay-of-proceedings provision includes ordering parties to mediation. “[T]he trial court’s ordering the parties to mediation undermines the expectation of the parties that their dispute will be resolved by proceedings directed by an arbitrator.” OPINION:Per curiam.

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