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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:An insurance company and an independent agent agreed to arbitrate rather than litigate any dispute “under or with respect to” their contract. When the contract was terminated, the agent neither litigated nor arbitrated his dispute with the company; instead, he filed a tortious interference with contract suit against the insurer’s parent company, the agent who took his place, and two officers or affiliates of each. The trial court refused to compel arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act, and the court of appeals denied mandamus relief. HOLDING:Conditionally granted. The court recently held that Texas law, consistent with federal law of direct-benefits estoppel, requires a nonparty to arbitrate a claim “if it seeks, through the claim, to derive a direct benefit from the contract containing the arbitration provision.” In Re: Kellogg Brown & Root Inc., 166 S.W.3d 732 (Tex. 2005). “While the boundaries of direct-benefits estoppel are not always clear, nonparties generally must arbitrate claims if liability arises from a contract with an arbitration clause, but not if liability arises from general obligations imposed by law.” For several reasons, the court holds that tortious interference claims between a signatory to an arbitration agreement and agents or affiliates of the other signatory arise more from the contract than general law, and thus musst be arbitrated: 1. corporations must act through human agents, 2. Requiring arbitration of such claims complies with the rule that the court look first to whether the parties agreed to arbitrate a dispute, and 3. many Texas courts of appeals have held that a tortious interference claim against a signatory’s employees or affiliates must be arbitrated, even though the latter are nonsignatories. The court notes that several federal courts have agreed. Although the court agrees that allowing a party to conduct full discovery, file motions going to the merits, and seek arbitration only on the eve of trial defeats the FAA’s goal of resolving disputes without the delay and expense of litigation, “[w]e disagree that the record here shows that the relators did so, at least not to the degree necessary to overcome the presumption against waiver.” OPINION:Per curiam.

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