The Scope of Arbitration Clauses In Alabama

The scope of the disputes embraced by an arbitration clause is a matter of contract interpretation. Allied-Bruce Terminix Companies, Inc. v. Dobson, 684 So. 2d 102, 107 (Ala. 1995). When dealing with an unambiguous arbitration clause, the court will determine the parties' intent at the time the contract was executed by analyzing the plain language of the arbitration clause. Coastal Ford, Inc. v. Kidder, 694 So. 2d 1285, 1288 (Ala. 1997). 'If in its terms a contract is plain and free from ambiguity, then there is no room for construction and it is the duty of the court to enforce it as written.'" Ex parte Conference America, Inc., 713 So. 2d 953, 956 (Ala. 1998), quoting Ex parte South Carolina Ins. Co., 683 So. 2d 987, 989 (Ala. 1996). An appeal is the proper method of challenging a trial court's order refusing to compel arbitration. A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc. v. Clark, 558 So. 2d 358, 360 (Ala. 1990). When an arbitration clause clearly indicates that disputes related to prior transactions are to be arbitrated, those disputes must be arbitrated when one of the parties to the transaction demands arbitration. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Kirton, 719 So. 2d 201 (Ala. 1998). See also Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. v. Kilgore, 751 So. 2d 8, 1999 Ala (1999); Kenworth of Dothan, Inc. v. Bruner-Wells Trucking, Inc., 745 So. 2d 271, 1999 Ala (1999), and A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc. v. Syvrud, 597 So. 2d 197 (Ala. 1992).