The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined that the subcontractors, who did not sign the primary contract which included an arbitration provision in the “General Conditions,” had exploited the benefits of the primary contract and therefore should be compelled to arbitrate. The primary contract was between Corning Hospital and Gilbane, the general contractor. One subcontractor (Mancini) was responsible for general construction of the building and the other (Alliance) was responsible for the installation of veneer stone panels, which had begun to fall off the building:
… “[U]nder the direct benefits theory of estoppel, a nonsignatory may be compelled to arbitrate where the nonsignatory knowingly exploits the benefits of an agreement containing an arbitration clause, and receives benefits flowing directly from the agreement” … . … “Where the benefits are merely ‘indirect,’ a nonsignatory cannot be compelled to arbitrate a claim. A benefit is indirect where the nonsignatory exploits the contractual relation of the parties, but not the agreement itself” … . Noting that “it can be difficult to distinguish between direct and indirect benefits,” the Court of Appeals stated that “[t]he guiding principle is whether the benefit gained by the nonsignatory is one that can be traced directly to the agreement containing the arbitration clause” … .
Respondent argues that Mancini and Alliance are estopped from compelling litigation regarding the veneer stone panels because Alliance previously served a demand for arbitration on Gilbane and Mancini, with the demand specifically stating that one of the bases for seeking arbitration was the dispute resolution section of the General Conditions related to the construction project … . Following that demand for arbitration, Alliance, Gilbane and Mancini took part in mediation, as required prior to arbitration per a provision of the dispute resolution section of the General Conditions — a provision that Alliance also cited in its demand for arbitration. As a result of the mediation, those three entities then entered into a settlement agreement and released each other from liability regarding anything related to the veneer panels. …
Based on Alliance’s demand citing the applicability of the arbitration section of the General Conditions, and Mancini’s acquiescence to that demand, both of these nonsignatories to the prime contract and General Conditions should be compelled to arbitrate pursuant to the direct benefits theory of estoppel. Accordingly, the applications to permanently stay arbitration should have been denied, and the parties should proceed to arbitration. Matter of Alliance Masonry Corp. (Corning Hosp.), 2019 NY Slip Op 09348, Third Dept 12-26-19