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A party who fails to timely seek arbitration could lose its right to alternative dispute resolution processes. An example of a waiver of the right to arbitration was recently considered by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Ehleiter v. Grapetree Shores Inc. In that case, the plaintiff, an employee of a casino, sued the property owner after allegedly suffering personal injuries resulting from a slip and fall in an employee stairway at the casino.

For almost four years the parties engaged in discovery, which included 19 depositions as well as the submission of numerous interrogatories and expert reports. While discovery was in progress, the parties participated in an unsuccessful mediation session. Under a court order they stipulated that they would be ready for trial by Dec. 1, 2004. Subsequently, the defendant sought a continuance of the trial date. Thereafter, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment and to implead a third-party defendant. Those two motions, plus a motion filed by the plaintiff, were fully briefed by the parties. Finally, on the day set for the joint pretrial statement and proposed jury instructions, the defendant moved to stay the case pending arbitration, pointing to an arbitration clause covering all claims against affiliated companies of plaintiff’s employer, which included the defendant.

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