In an opinion Monday, Judge Vyskocil denied a motion to force a partnership dispute over a medical practice to be arbitrated in a Jewish court (referred to in the opinion as either a “beis din” or “beth din”). The plaintiffs’ complaint alleged that the plaintiffs were “religiously bound to bring their dispute in the first instance to a Beis Din” but were only pursing their claims in the district court “until such time as Defendants comply with the hazmanah,” the equivalent of a summons.
The defendants agreed that the parties were bound to bring their case before a Jewish court, but what has kept the case in the Southern District was the parties’ inability to agree as to which Jewish court should hear the case. Absent consensus on that point, Judge Vyskocil ruled, there was no binding arbitration agreement under New York law:
[T]he Court finds that, if Plaintiffs’ Complaint contains an offer to arbitrate, it also specifies the method of acceptance: responding to Plaintiffs’ hazmanah. It is undisputed, however, that Defendants instead responded by serving their own hazmanah from their preferred beth din. . . .
Defendants argue that it makes no difference under Jewish law who serves the hazmanah or from what specific beth din, and they offer the declaration of a rabbi in support of that argument. But this Court must apply New York law. Under New York law, “for an acceptance to be effective, it must comply with the terms of the offer and be clear, unambiguous and unequivocal.” . . .
Plaintiffs represented on the record before this Court that, to proceed before a rabbinical court, the parties must all consent “not just to litigate in beth din but in a particular [beth din]”. Because the Court must draw all reasonable inferences Plaintiffs’ favor, the Court declines to evaluate the parties’ competing representations about the requirements of Jewish law.
The Court finds that Defendants did not unambiguously and unequivocally accept the terms of Plaintiffs’ offer to proceed before a beth din.