Humphry v. Glaxosmithkline PLC

The Pennsylvania Superior Court heard an appeal that reads more like an international espionage novel than a court case. However, the dispute ended up being a somewhat routine disagreement about compulsory arbitration. The facts include a pharmaceutical company hiring another company to dig up dirt on a whistleblower. The pharmaceutical company did not mention that the whistleblower’s allegations were true and that the whistleblower had powerful allies in the Chinese government. The Chinese government brought charges against the investigators, and the investigators were convicted, imprisoned, and suffered mistreatment during imprisonment. The investigators filed suit in Pennsylvania claiming fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy. Though the contract between the companies had an arbitration agreement, the trial court refused to compel arbitration because neither party to the litigation was a party to the contract. The suit was brought by individual investigators, not the company that employed them. And the defendant was the pharmaceutical company, not the subsidiary that contracted with the other company. The Superior Court agreed with the trial court that no party to the suit was a signatory to the contract. Thus, arbitration could not be compelled.

Humphrey