The US Supreme Court says that it won’t review a federal appeals court’s finding that even though an investor’s English was limited, he is still bound by a broker-customer agreement that any disputes over the handling of his account must be resolved through arbitration. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit had concluded that the issue isn’t about, per the investor’s contentions, enforceability. Rather, it is about whether a contract was formed, which it was.
Plaintiff Alfred Janiga, who is originally from Poland, had signed an agreement containing an arbitration clause when he started investing with Questar Capital Corp. (STR). Janiga’s brother Weislaw Hessek, a registered Questar representative who runs Hessek Financial Services LLC, arranged the investment relationship.
A year after he started investing with Questar, Janiga sued his brother, Questar, and Hessek Financial. While the defendants moved to have the district court stay proceedings and order arbitration, the court said mandating immediate arbitration was not possible because it was unsure whether Janiga and Questar ever had a contract.
The appeals court found that it was up to the court to first determine whether a contract existed before it could stay the complaint and order arbitration. While the district court expressed concern over whether Janiga understood the agreement he had signed, the appeals court noted that the plaintiff had voluntarily signed the contract, which includes an arbitration clause.
Janiga, in his certiorari petition, argued that his case poses a “question of federal law” of whether an arbitration agreement clause is enforceable when he never received the actual document and the terms included were never conveyed to him and that this is a matter that the US Supreme Court should resolve.