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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In 2003, Rudy Leija and his wife Maricella DeLeon bought a used 2000 Ford Expedition from Gillespie Motor Co. They signed a sales contract and accompanying arbitration provision providing that “any and all controversies or claims arising out of, or in any way relating to” the “Sales Contract or the negotiation, purchase, trade in, financing, ownership, manufacture, warranties (express or implied), repair or sale/disposition of the motor vehicle which is the subject of the . . . Sales Contract, whether those claims arise from or concern contract, warranty, statutory, property or common law, will be settled solely by means of final and binding arbitration.” In January 2005, Leija was fatally injured in a rollover accident involving the Expedition. DeLeon sued Gillespie and Ford in her individual capacity, as representative of her husband’s estate and on behalf of the couple’s three minor children. Andres Leija and Angie Bermea, Leija’s parents, joined the suit. In their joint petition, under the caption Breach of Warranty, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants “by and through the sale of the Ford Expedition” “expressly and impliedly warranted to . . . the Plaintiffs specifically[] that the Expedition was fit for the purposes for which it was intended”; the plaintiffs “made use” of the product and relied on the defendants’ express and implied warranties; Ford expressly represented that the vehicle met all federal safety standards; and the defendants’ breach of the express and implied warranties was the producing cause of the occurrence in question and the injuries to Leija. Gillespie and Ford moved to stay the trial court proceedings and order all of the plaintiffs to arbitrate their claims. The trial court rejected Gillespie’s and Ford’s argument that Leija’s children and parents should be compelled to arbitrate their claims under the theory of direct benefit estoppel and ordered only DeLeon, individually and as the representative of Leija’s estate, to arbitration. Ford and Gillespie now seek a writ of mandamus to compel the trial court to order Leija’s children and parents to arbitrate their claims as well. HOLDING:The court conditionally granted the mandamus petition and ordered the trial court to compel arbitration of all plaintiffs’ claims. In the arbitration provision signed by Gillespie, Leija and DeLeon, the parties stipulated that the car purchase agreement involved interstate commerce, the court stated. A “contract evidencing a transaction involving commerce,” the court stated, is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), codified in 9 U.S.C. �2. An order refusing to compel arbitration under the FAA is reviewable by mandamus, the court stated. Gillespie and Ford first argue that whether Leija’s children and parents should be ordered to arbitrate their claims is an issue that should be decided not by the trial court but by the arbitrator. The 4th Court of Appeals disagreed. To begin, the court stated that under the FAA, it is the courts rather than arbitrators that must decide gateway matters such as whether an arbitration agreement is binding on a nonparty. In the absence of “unmistakable evidence” that the parties to this arbitration agreement intended that an arbitrator would decide the issue of whether the arbitration agreement bound Leija’s children and parents, the court held the general rule requiring the trial court to decide gateway matters applies. Next, Ford and Gillespie argued the arbitration agreement bound Leija’s children and parents under the theory of direct benefit estoppel. The court agreed. A litigant who sues based on a contract subjects him or herself to the contract’s terms, the court stated. When a nonparty to an arbitration agreement fully joins a party to the arbitration agreement’s contract claims, the court stated, the nonparty subjects itself to the contract’s terms, including the arbitration clause. It is thus clear, the court found, that Leija’s children and parents, although not parties to the sales contract, seek to enforce express warranties, as if they were parties to the sales contract. Therefore, the court found that they had subjected themselves to the contract’s terms, including the contract’s arbitration provision. OPINION:Duncan, J.; Lopez, C.J., and Duncan and Speedlin, J.J.

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