L.G. v. Aurora Residential Alternatives, Inc. (Compelled Arbitration)

In L.G. v. Aurora Residential Alternatives, Inc. (2019 WI 79), the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that a circuit court’s order denying a motion to compel arbitration is a final order under Wis. Stat. § 808.03(1), allowing the order to be appealed.

The plaintiff patient filed the underlying lawsuit in this case against Aurora regarding an incident that occurred in an Aurora residential facility. However, the plaintiff had previously signed an arbitration agreement with Aurora. Aurora filed a motion in circuit court to stay the litigation pending arbitration pursuant to the agreement, following procedures outlined in Wisconsin’s Arbitration Act (Wis. Stat. § 788.02). The circuit court denied the motion to stay and compel arbitration. The instant issue before the Supreme Court was whether that circuit court order on arbitration was a final order that Aurora could appeal.

According to Wis. Stat. § 808.03(1), an appealable final order is one that “disposes of the entire matter in litigation…whether rendered in an action or special proceeding.” The Supreme Court’s analysis determined Aurora’s motion to stay pending arbitration was a “special proceeding,” not an action, because it addressed an issue separate from the merits of the underlying action. Because the circuit court’s decision on the arbitration motion was a separate “special proceeding,” the order need not address the merits of the entire underlying action in order to “dispose of the entire matter” pursuant to § 808.03(1). Therefore, circuit court orders on arbitration motions under Wis. Stat. § 788.02 are final and appealable.

The court decided the case 5-0, with Justices Abrahamson and Walsh Bradley not participating.