An Illinois appellate court recently affirmed a lower court decision granting summary judgment and denying defendant insurers' motion to compel arbitration where Nebraska law governed, reverse preempted the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), and rendered a mandatory arbitration provision in a reinsurance agreement unenforceable. Plaintiffs were required to enter reinsurance agreements to obtain workers' compensation insurance and the agreement at issue contained provisions requiring mandatory arbitration of disputes and the application of Nebraska law. A dispute arose over the cost of the insurance policies and plaintiffs filed suit for various unfair and deceptive business practices violations. Defendants served an arbitration demand on plaintiffs, who refused to arbitrate. The lower court accepted plaintiffs' argument that the arbitration clause was invalid under the Nebraska Arbitration Act (NAA) and therefore denied defendants' motion to compel arbitration and granted summary judgment to plaintiffs.

On appeal, the appellate court affirmed. First, the court rejected defendants' argument that plaintiffs were required to arbitrate because they failed to "specifically and directly" challenge delegation clauses in the reinsurance agreement. In defendants' view, the delegation clauses precluded judicial determination of arbitrability based in part on the Supreme Court's decision in Rent-A-Center, West, Inc. v. Jackson. The court ultimately concluded that the plaintiffs had challenged the delegation clauses specifically enough via their arguments on the arbitration provision, and therefore the lower court was entitled to consider the arbitrability challenge rather than compel arbitration on that issue.

Second, the court found the NAA applied and invalidated the arbitration clause of the reinsurance agreement. The court applied the three-part test to determine whether the McCarran-Ferguson Act allows a state law to reverse preempt a federal statute and concluded that: (1) the FAA does not specifically relate to the business of insurance, (2) the relevant provision of the NAA was enacted to regulate the business of insurance, and (3) the NAA applied in this case; thus the NAA reverse preempted the FAA. Because the NAA prohibits arbitration of agreements concerning or relating to insurance, the court held the arbitration clause was unenforceable and the lower court did not err in denying defendants' motion to compel arbitration.

Onken's Am. Recyclers, Inc. v. Cal. Ins. Co., Case No. 4-18-0240 (Ill. App. Ct. Sept. 10, 2018).

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