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Posts Tagged ‘Standard of Review’

SCOTUS Denies Americo and Jupiter Medical Cert. Petitions: All Eyes now on DIRECTV. . . .

May 19th, 2015 American Arbitration Association, Appellate Practice, Arbitrability, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration as a Matter of Consent, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Arbitration Provider Rules, Arbitrator Selection and Qualification Provisions, Awards, Choice-of-Law Provisions, Class Action Arbitration, Class Action Waivers, Confirmation of Awards, Consent to Class Arbitration, Contract Interpretation, FAA Preemption of State Law, Federal Arbitration Act Enforcement Litigation Procedure, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, State Courts, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on SCOTUS Denies Americo and Jupiter Medical Cert. Petitions: All Eyes now on DIRECTV. . . .

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On March 28, 2015 we reported (here) that the U.S. Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) had asked for a response to the petition for certiorari in Americo Life, Inc. v. Myer, 440 S.W.3d 18 (Tex. 2014). In Americo the Texas Supreme Court held that an arbitration award had to be vacated because it was made by a panel not constituted according to the parties’ agreement. The parties’ agreement, among other things, incorporated the American Arbitration Association (the “AAA”)’s rules, which at the time the parties entered into the contract followed the traditional, industry arbitration rule that party-appointed arbitrators may be partial, under the control of the appointing party or both. But by the time the dispute arose the AAA Rules had been amended to provide that the parties are presumed to intend to require parties to appoint only neutral arbitrators—that is, arbitrators that are both impartial and independent.

Five Justices of the nine-member Texas Court determined that the parties had agreed that party-appointed arbitrators need not be impartial, only independent. Because the AAA had, contrary to the parties’ agreement, disqualified the challenging party’s first-choice arbitrator on partiality grounds, the panel that rendered the award was not properly constituted and thus exceeded its powers. See 440 S.W.3d at 25. (Copies of our Americo posts are here and here.)

yay-12776482As reported here and here, the losing party requested Supreme  Court review to determine whether the Texas Supreme Court should have deferred to the AAA’s decision on disqualification rather than independently determining whether the parties intended to require party-appointed arbitrators to be neutral. The petition argues that there is a split in the circuits on the issue.

On Monday, May 18, 2015, SCOTUS denied the petition for certiorari.  (You can access the Court’s May 18, 2015 Order List here.)

On Monday May 4, 2015, SCOTUS also denied the petition for certiorari in another Federal Arbitration Act case, Jupiter Medical Center, Inc. v. Visiting Nurse Assoc., No. 14-944, which was decided by the Florida Supreme Court. (You can access the Court’s May 4, 2015 Order List here.) Jupiter Medical Center, like Americo, concerned a post-award challenge under Section 10(a)(4) of the Federal Arbitration Act, and also like Americo, was decided by a state supreme court. In Jupiter Medical, however, the Florida Supreme Court rejected the post-award challenge.

yay-5257980-digitalSupreme Court watchers interested in arbitration cases will have to get their fix next term from DIRECTV v. Imburgia, which we discussed here. Will SCOTUS hold that the California intermediate Court did not give effect to the presumption of arbitrability? Will SCOTUS go even further and explain that, just as a statute cannot be interpreted “‘to destroy itself,'” AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, 131 S. Ct. 1740, 1748 (2011) (quoting  American Telephone & Telegraph Co. v. Central Office Telephone, Inc., 524 U.S. 214, 227-228 (1998) (quotation omitted)), so too cannot state law contract interpretation rules be applied in a way that would destroy an arbitration agreement to which the Federal Arbitration Act applies? Cf. Volt Info. Sciences, Inc. v. Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior Univ., 489 U.S. 468,  (1989) (“The question remains whether, assuming the choice-of-law clause meant what the Court of Appeal found it to mean, application of Cal. Civ. Proc. Code Ann. § 1281.2(c) is nonetheless pre-empted by the FAA to the extent it is used to stay arbitration under this contract involving interstate commerce.  .  .  . [because] “it would undermine the goals and policies of the FAA.”)

Stay tuned for DIRECTV.  .  .  .

 

Photo Acknowledgements:

All photos used in the text portion of this post are licensed from Yay Images and are subject to copyright protection under applicable law. Text has been added to image 2 (counting from top to bottom). Hover your mouse pointer over any image to view the Yay Images abbreviation of the photographer’s name.

Third Circuit Opalinski Class Arbitration Arbitrability Case Cert. Petition Set for Conference

February 25th, 2015 Appellate Practice, Arbitrability, Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration as a Matter of Consent, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Class Action Arbitration, Class Action Waivers, Consolidation of Arbitration Proceedings, Drafting Arbitration Agreements, Judicial Review of Arbitration Awards, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on Third Circuit Opalinski Class Arbitration Arbitrability Case Cert. Petition Set for Conference

yay-10417208Classarb-e14248919879081 - CopyOn August 28, 2014 we posted an article discussing the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit’s decision in Opalinski v. Robert Half Int’l Inc., 761 F.3d 326 (3rd Cir. 2014), which held that the question of consent to class arbitration was one of arbitrability. Prior to Opalinski the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled in Reed Elsevier, Inc. v. Crockett, 734 F.3d 594 (6th Cir. 2013), “that the question whether an arbitration agreement permits classwide arbitration is a gateway matter, which is reserved for judicial determination unless the parties clearly and unmistakably provide otherwise.” 734 F.2d at 599 (quotation and citation omitted).

 

 

yay-10343058Arbitrability-e1424891774286Opalinski “join[ed] the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in holding that the availability of class arbitration” is a substantive gateway question rather than a procedural one[,]” and thus “is a question of arbitrability.” 761 F.3d at 335. The Third Circuit’s decision turned on “the critical differences between individual and class arbitration and the significant consequences of that determination for both [a] whose claims are subject to arbitration[;] and [b] the type of controversy to be arbitrated.” Id. (emphasis and bracketed letters added). Where, as in Opalinski, the arbitration agreement did not “mention” class arbitration, the Court “believ[ed] the parties would have expected a court, not an arbitrator, to determine the availability of class arbitration[,]” and that was “especially so given the critical differences between individual and class arbitration and the significant consequences” of the class-arbitration-consent determination as respects “whose claims are subject to arbitration and the type of controversy to be arbitrated.” 761 F.3d at 335.

 

yay-34842-e1424891828235As we explained in our prior post, both Opalinski and Reed Elsevier followed on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Oxford Health Plans LLC v. Sutter, 133 S. Ct. 2064 (2013), which in footnote pointed out that the award-challenger in Oxford had unreservedly submitted to the arbitrator the issue of whether class arbitration consent was one of arbitrability, but that the case before it would have been “different” had Oxford “argued below that the availability of class-arbitration is a so-called ‘question of arbitrability.’” 133 S. Ct. at 2068 n.2. The Oxford Court said that Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., 559 U.S. 662, 680 (2010) “made clear that this Court has not yet decided” whether class-arbitration-consent presents a question of arbitrability. But “Oxford agreed that the arbitrator should determine whether its contract with Sutter authorized class procedures[,]” and “Oxford submitted that issue to arbitrator not once, but twice and the second time after Stolt-Nielsen flagged that it might be a question of arbitrability.” 133 S. Ct. at 2068 n.2. (emphasis added)

 

yay-4295955StandardReview-e1424891877565Had Oxford opted to request the Supreme Court to determine whether class-arbitration consent presented a question of arbitrability, and had the Court determined that it was such a question, then the Court would have determined “independently, that is, without deferring to the arbitrator’s decision” whether the parties consented to class arbitration. See BG Group plc v. Republic of Argentina, No. 12-138, slip op. at 6 (U.S. March 5, 2014); First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 543 U.S. 938, 942 (1995). And we doubt that a majority of the Supreme Court would have upheld the Oxford award had it reviewed the class-arbitration-consent determination de novo. See, e.g., Oxford, 133 S. Ct. at 2071 (Alito, J., concurring) (“If we were reviewing the arbitrator’s interpretation of the contract de novo, we would have little trouble concluding that he improperly inferred “[a]n implicit agreement to authorize class-action arbitration.  .  .  from the fact of the parties’ agreement to arbitrate.”) (quoting Stolt-Nielsen, 559 U.S. at 685).

 

yay-14148680-digital-e1424891905695 - CopyAfter the Third Circuit denied rehearing en banc, the Opalinsky parties petitioned for certiorari. The petition has been distributed and is set to be considered at the Supreme Court’s March 6, 2015 conference. See Docket, Opalinski v. Robert Half Int’l Inc., No. 14-625.

The United States Supreme Court regularly holds private conferences at which it, among other things, votes on whether to grant particular petitions for certiorari. Four votes is required to grant a petition for cert. The vast majority of the many cert. petitions the Court considers considers are denied. When the Supreme Court grants a petition, it simply means that it has agreed to hear the case, which will then be fully briefed, and in most cases, orally argued. Neither the grant or denial of a petition for certiorari suggests approval or disapproval with the lower court’s decision on the merits.

It will be interesting to see if the U.S. Supreme Court is will agree to hear and determine the important arbitrability question addressed in Opalinski. If it does the Court will have an opportunity to provide some needed, uniform guidance on it, and perhaps even some indirect guidance on the related issue of whether, and if so, under what circumstances, consent to consolidated arbitration may present a question of arbitrability.

Arbitration and Mediation FAQs: Can I Appeal an Arbitration Award in Court?

May 21st, 2014 Arbitration Agreements, Arbitration and Mediation FAQs, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Awards, Drafting Arbitration Agreements, Grounds for Vacatur, Nuts & Bolts, Nuts & Bolts: Arbitration, Practice and Procedure Comments Off on Arbitration and Mediation FAQs: Can I Appeal an Arbitration Award in Court?

Introduction

When a party is on the wrong end of an arbitration award that he, she or it thinks is fundamentally unfair, tainted by impropriety, or disconnected from the agreement the arbitrator was supposed to interpret and apply, the first question that comes to mind is whether there might be some form of recourse available. In court,  the usual avenue of relief from an adverse judgment or order is an appeal.

Can a losing party to an arbitration award governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”) appeal it in court? Since private arbitration is an alternative to public, government-sponsored court litigation, since the court system plays an important role in enforcing arbitration agreements, since both arbitration and court litigation share at least some of the same attributes and since in the U.S. procedural due process and the primacy of the rule of law are as dear to us as baseball and apple pie, it is natural to assume that one should be able to appeal an adverse arbitration award.

But one cannot—in any meaningful sense of the word—“appeal” an arbitration award to a court. In court litigation an appeal involves judicial review by an appellate court under which a panel of judges reviews trial-court rulings on questions of law independently—that is, as if the appellate court were deciding the question for itself in the first instance. The appellate court reviews the trial court’s findings of fact on a “clearly erroneous” or “clear error” standard of review, that is, paying a certain degree of deference to the finder of fact (the jury or trial judge). While appellate review thus does not involve a retrial on the merits, it is broad and searching, particularly where outcomes turn solely on questions of law.

The FAA does not authorize courts to review arbitration awards under an appellate standard of review, even if the parties consent to a court applying such a standard. Parties can agree before or after a dispute arises to an arbitration procedure that empowers another arbitrator or panel of arbitrators to review an award under an appellate or some other standard of review, but arbitration awards are subject to very limited and deferential review by courts and then only on a few narrow grounds.

The FAA Award-Enforcement Process

The FAA award enforcement process permits either party to make an application to vacate, modify or correct an award, or an application to “confirm” it, that is, enter judgment on it. Since the deadline for applying to vacate, modify or correct an award is considerably shorter than that for confirming an award, in many cases, parties who are seeking relief from the award make the initial application. If a putative challenging party does not timely seek relief, and the other party seeks confirmation after the expiration of the deadline for making an application to vacate, modify or correct the award, then the challenging party is time-barred from asserting grounds for vacatur or modification, even simply as affirmative defenses to confirmation. (See, e.g., L. Reins. & Arb. Law Forum post here.)

Let’s assume a party makes a timely motion to vacate an award. What will likely then happen is the other party will cross-move to confirm the award. The burden on the party seeking confirmation is pretty modest. Generally the party moving to confirm will need to show that the parties: (a) agreed to arbitrate; (b) consented to entry of judgment on the award; (c) appointed an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators; and (d) submitted the dispute to the arbitrators, who issued the award. The award is presumed valid and the court does not review its outcome or substance.

Once the modest prerequisites for confirmation have been established by a properly supported petition or motion to confirm an award, then the court “must grant” confirmation “unless the award is vacated, modified or corrected” under FAA Sections 10 or 11. 9 U.S.C. § 9. Thus, apart from those relatively rare cases where a party can show that the parties never agreed to arbitrate at all (and that the challenging party did not waive that defense), or perhaps never even impliedly consented to entry of judgment on the award, the only grounds on which the losing party can oppose confirmation are those set forth in Section 10 and 11.

The only exception might be if the award interprets the contract in a way that causes it to violate a well-defined and explicit public policy, or if the remedy the arbitrator awards violates the criminal law or requires one of the parties to do so. For example, one would not expect a court to enter judgment on an award that purported to authorize the prevailing party to inflict bodily harm on the losing party or vice-versa. That principle is simply an application of the contract-law rule that courts will not enforce contracts that violate public policy. See, generally, W. R. Grace & Co. v. Rubber Workers, 461 U.S. 757, 766 (1983); United Food & Commercial Workers Int’l Union v. King Soopers, 743 F.3d 1310, 1315 (10th Cir. 2014).

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Arbitration and Mediation FAQs: What do the Terms Arbitrable, Arbitrability, and Question of Arbitrability Mean, and Why do they Matter?

March 26th, 2014 Arbitrability, Arbitration and Mediation FAQs, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Existence of Arbitration Agreement, Grounds for Vacatur, Practice and Procedure, Small Business B-2-B Arbitration, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on Arbitration and Mediation FAQs: What do the Terms Arbitrable, Arbitrability, and Question of Arbitrability Mean, and Why do they Matter?

 Arbitrable, Arbitrability and Question of Arbitrability

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to be privy to a conversation about arbitration law, you probably heard things like:

“The dispute arguably falls within the scope of the agreement and is therefore arbitrable.”

Oxford expressly pointed out that none of the parties argued that consent to class arbitration is a question of arbitrability.”

“Did the parties clearly and unmistakably agree to arbitrate arbitrability? Because if they did, questions of arbitrability are arbitrable.”

Arbitration-law parlance is probably more arcane and cryptic than it has to be, but it has been with us for several decades and there’s no indication that it is likely to change any time soon. Learning it may be painful, but is usually well worth the modest effort required.

Today we’ll define in plain English some of the most bandied-about arbitration-law terms: “arbitrable,” “arbitrability” and “question of arbitrability.” And in the process we’ll try to explain why these closely-related terms are significant in matters governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”). Continue Reading »

How Will Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. Animalfeeds Int’l Corp. Change Reinsurance Arbitration Practice?

June 1st, 2010 Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Grounds for Vacatur, Labor Arbitration, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on How Will Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. Animalfeeds Int’l Corp. Change Reinsurance Arbitration Practice?

Part II

A.   Introduction

In Part I (here) we explained why the standard for challenging an award based on its outcome is important in reinsurance arbitration practice.  And, after briefly reviewing pre-Stolt-Nielsen law on outcome-based standards of review, we explained how Stolt-Nielsen has established a fairly searching, standard of review.  This Part II explores the legal and practical implications of that standard of review.    

B.   Legal Implications of the Stolt-Nielsen Decision’s Manifest Disregard of the Agreement Standard of Review

1.  Courts May Interpret Stolt-Nielsen’s Outcome-Based Standard of Review Liberally

Reinsurance-  and other commercial-arbitration awards are now subject to the same standard of review as labor-law awards – and in Stolt-Nielsen, the Court applied that standard of review pretty liberally.  The Court has put to rest the notion that Federal Arbitration Act Section 10(a)(4) vacatur is limited to questions concerning whether the arbitrators decided a matter falling within the scope of the parties’ arbitration agreement or submission.   The outcome of the arbitration is now subject to at least some, limited scrutiny. 

The focus will now be on whether the arbitrators interpreted, applied and enforced the contract, and applied applicable law or norms.  Express or implied reliance on extra-contractual considerations, such as public policy, may spoil an award, unless those extra-contractual considerations are grounded in applicable law.  Not heeding clear and unambiguous contract language, effectively deleting or disregarding contractual provisions or otherwise rewriting the contract may also subject the award to vacatur.  Continue Reading »

How Will Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. Animalfeeds Int’l Corp. Change Reinsurance Arbitration Practice?

May 25th, 2010 Arbitrability, Arbitration Practice and Procedure, Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Class Action Arbitration, Class Action Waivers, Consolidation of Arbitration Proceedings, Grounds for Vacatur, Practice and Procedure, Reinsurance Arbitration, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on How Will Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. Animalfeeds Int’l Corp. Change Reinsurance Arbitration Practice?

Part I

A.     Introduction 

Shortly before the United States Supreme Court decided Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int’l Corp., ___ U.S. ___, slip op. (April 27, 2010), we wrote about the implications the case might have on reinsurance arbitration practice.  (See our post here.)  But since then, you have not heard much from us, other than our brief report (here) about the Supreme Court vacating and remanding to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit the American Express Merchants’ Litigation judgment for further consideration in light of Stolt-Nielsen.   One — but by no means the only — reason is that after Stolt-Nielsen was decided, we wrote a comprehensive article on it, which will be published in a subscription-only publication in June. 

But that article – while comprehensive in scope – is directed at folks interested in the Federal Arbitration Act in general, not necessarily those interested in reinsurance arbitration in particular.  And that’s what we want to cover in this multi-part series:  Stolt-Nielsen’s implications on reinsurance arbitration practice. 

Stolt-Nielsen affects reinsurance arbitration in two very important ways.   First, it has set a fairly liberal standard of review that now applies to commercial arbitration awards in cases where a party asserts that the arbitrators exceeded their powers under Federal Arbitration Act Section 10(a)(4) because of the award’s outcome.  That, as we shall see, has all sorts of implications for persons involved in reinsurance arbitrations.

Second, it has changed the rules applicable to consolidated-reinsurance-arbitration practice – or at least it requires a wholesale reevaluation of those rules.  That, too, has a number of important implications for reinsurance-arbitration practice.   

This Part I of the series explains why the standard for challenging an award based on its outcome is important in reinsurance arbitration practice.  And, after briefly reviewing pre-Stolt-Nielsen law on outcome-based standards of review, it explains how Stolt-Nielsen has established for the lower courts a fairly searching standard of review.  Part II (here) will delve into what the implications of that standard of review will likely be. 

Part III (here) will provide the background necessary to understand how Stolt-Nielsen affects the law applicable to consolidated reinsurance arbitration.  Part IV (here) will delve into the details of how Stolt-Nielsen changes – or at least requires reconsideration of – the legal status quo in this area.  And Part V will discuss the implications of all of this.   

We do not set out to discuss the background of Stolt-Nielsen in any detail or to provide a play-by-play of how the Court decided the case.  If you are a regular reader you probably already know the background in detail, and our upcoming article does a pretty good job of mapping out the Court’s reasoning.  Instead, we focus our attention on the aspects of the decision that are relevant to the two key subjects of discussion. 

But before we delve into what Stolt-Nielsen has to say about the standard of review, we pause briefly to address why the standard of review applicable to an outcome-based challenge is so important in reinsurance and other forms of commercial arbitration.  Continue Reading »

The Agency Model of Arbitral Power: University of Chicago Law School Law and Economics Professor Tom Ginsburg Explains Why Deferential Review Does Not Necessarily Make Arbitration an Effective Substitute for Adjudication

April 7th, 2010 Authority of Arbitrators, Awards, Grounds for Vacatur, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, United States Supreme Court Comments Off on The Agency Model of Arbitral Power: University of Chicago Law School Law and Economics Professor Tom Ginsburg Explains Why Deferential Review Does Not Necessarily Make Arbitration an Effective Substitute for Adjudication

In George Watts & Son v. Tiffany & Co., 248 F.3d 577 (7th Cir. 2001), then Circuit Judge (now Chief Judge) Frank H. Easterbrook of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit said:   “What the parties may do, the arbitrator as their mutual agent may do.”  248 F.3d at 581.   Chief Judge Easterbrook made this statement in the course of defining the “manifest disregard” standard of review.  Applying his “agency model,” he concluded that “the ‘manifest disregard’ principle is limited to two possibilities:  an arbitral order requiring the parties to violate the law.  .  . , and an arbitral order that does not adhere to the legal principles specified by contract, and hence unenforceable under § 10(a)(4).”   Id

Chief Judge Easterbrook’s “agency” model of arbitral authority is instructive.  Just as agents derive their authority by the consent of the principal (subject to the rules of apparent and implied authority), arbitrators derive their authority from the parties via the arbitration agreement and the submission.  Subject to any restrictions in the arbitration agreement, the arbitrators’ powers to resolve a dispute under a broad arbitration agreement are arguably co-extensive with those of the parties that appointed them. 

But the model is not perfect.  First, unlike agents, arbitrators are not subject to the control of their principals and owe them no fiduciary duties.  Second, analogizing arbitrators as agents of the parties in the way Chief Judge Easterbrook does effectively empowers arbitrators not only to decide cases, but to negotiate settlements that the parties could have entered into.  It therefore does not require arbitrators to even arguably interpret the contract or apply the law:  As long as the arbitrators do not require the parties to violate the law, and as long as the arbitrators are at least arguably faithful to the parties’ expressed choice-of-law, if any, they can reach whatever decision they wish, whether by application of facts to legal norms or by a compromise settlement that may or may not be rooted in the parties’ agreement.    That arguably does not comport with the parties’ presumed, legitimate expectations.  For the arbitrator’s job is to decide cases; settlement is a matter for the parties, and should be subject to the parties’ control. 

University of Chicago Law School Professor Tom Ginsburg has written an excellent white paper that argues that the deferential standard of review espoused by Watts and other courts does not necessarily make arbitration an attractive substitute for litigation.  See Tom Ginsburg, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 502 (2d Series), The Arbitrator as Agent: Why Deferential Review Is Not Always Pro-Arbitration  (Dec. 2009) (copy available here).  He argues that a more searching standard of review would make the market for arbitrators more transparent, and thus more effective.  He advocates using Chief Judge Easterbrook’s agency model as an analytical framework for allowing parties to choose whether they prefer a very deferential standard of review, like that prescribed in Watts; something akin to de novo review, like that available in litigation; or something in between the two.  Professor Ginsburg is in the process of publishing in the University of Chicago Law Review an article based on his white paper. Continue Reading »