Wis. Code § 788.03

Updated February 12, 2019
788.03 Court order to arbitrate; procedure

The party aggrieved by the alleged failure, neglect or refusal of another to perform under a written agreement for arbitration may petition any court of record having jurisdiction of the parties or of the property for an order directing that such arbitration proceed as provided for in such agreement. Five days' notice in writing of such application shall be served upon the party in default. Service thereof shall be made as provided by law for the service of a summons. The court shall hear the parties, and upon being satisfied that the making of the agreement for arbitration or the failure to comply therewith is not in issue, the court shall make an order directing the parties to proceed to arbitration in accordance with the terms of the agreement. If the making of the arbitration agreement or the failure, neglect or refusal to perform the same is in issue, the court shall proceed summarily to the trial thereof. If no jury trial is demanded, the court shall hear and determine such issue. Where such an issue is raised, either party may, on or before the return day of the notice of application, demand a jury trial of such issue, and upon such demand the court shall make an order referring the issue to a jury summoned and selected under s. 756.06. If the jury finds that no agreement in writing for arbitration was made or that there is no default in proceeding thereunder, the proceeding shall be dismissed. If the jury finds that an agreement for arbitration was made in writing and that there is a default in proceeding thereunder, the court shall make an order summarily directing the parties to proceed with the arbitration in accordance with the terms thereof.

History: Sup. Ct. Order, 67 Wis. 2d 585, 775 (1975); 1977 c. 187 s. 135; 1979 c. 32 s. 64; Stats. 1979 s. 788.03; Sup. Ct. Order No. 96-08, 207 Wis. 2d xv (1997). An insured who acceded to the insurer's refusal to arbitrate the insured's uninsured motorist claim until after the insured's passengers' claims were litigated was not an “aggrieved party" within the meaning of this section. Worthington v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, 77 Wis. 2d 508, 253 N.W.2d 76 (1977). In the absence of a reservation of rights, “partial participation" in the arbitration process may estop a party from challenging an arbitration agreement. Pilgrim Investment Corp. v. Reed, 156 Wis. 2d 677, 457 N.W.2d 544 (Ct. App. 1990). This section is only available when an underlying lawsuit has not yet been filed. When a lawsuit has been commenced, a party may not use the special procedure outlined in this section to compel arbitration. The party may still seek an order to arbitrate, but it must do so in the court where the underlying lawsuit is pending, not by initiating a separate action. The Payday Loan Store of Wisconsin Inc. v. Krueger, 2013 WI App 25, 346 Wis. 2d 237, 828 N.W.2d 587, 12-0751. Timeliness and estoppel defenses against arbitration are to be determined in the arbitration proceedings, not by a court in a proceeding under this section to compel arbitration. This conclusion in this case was based on Wisconsin's public policy favoring arbitration, the arbitration agreement in this case, the Realtors Association's arbitration procedures, the limited role of courts in actions to compel arbitration under this section, and relevant case law. First Weber Group, Inc. v. Synergy Real Estate Group, LLC, 2015 WI 34, 361 Wis. 2d 496, 860 N.W.2d 498, 13-1205. The legislature has determined that the courts have a limited role in the context of arbitration. In an action to compel arbitration under this section, the issues are limited to the making of the arbitration agreement or the failure, neglect, or refusal to perform under the agreement. When determining whether a dispute is arbitrable, a court's function is limited to a determination of whether there is a construction of the arbitration clause that would cover the grievance on its face and whether any other provision of the contract specifically excludes it. First Weber Group, Inc. v. Synergy Real Estate Group, LLC, 2015 WI 34, 361 Wis. 2d 496, 860 N.W.2d 498, 13-1205.