Monday, August 1, 2016
Delay in Issuing Decision Did Not Nullify Arbitration Award—Court of Appeal
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A delay in issuing an arbitration award was not so irregular as to require that the award be vacated, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled Friday.
Div. One, in an unpublished opinion by Justice Jeffrey Johnson, said the delay was not “completely irrational,” and thus did not meet the high standard for vacating an arbitration award.
Rosemarie Meza, a former insurance service representative for the Automobile Club of Southern California, sued for wrongful termination in 2013; the action was stayed pending arbitration pursuant to her employment agreement.
The parties agreed to have JAMS conduct the arbitration, and to bifurcate the issue of punitive damages and have the arbitrator issue an interim award resolving all other issues. Following a hearing lasting several days in May 2014, the parties agreed to waive oral argument in favor of submitting “simultaneously submitted briefs,” and that the arbitrator would decide the case by Oct. 13.
On Oct. 12, the arbitrator informed the parties he was extending the deadline for the interim award to Nov. 17. On Oct. 16, Meza’s counsel objected and argued that the arbitrator’s jurisdiction had expired.
The arbitrator later extended the deadline to Nov. 24, and issued the award the day before that, finding for the employer on all issues and retaining jurisdiction until Dec. 19 to issue a final award. On Dec. 16, the final award in favor of the employer was issued.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson confirmed the award and denied Meza’s petition to vacate.
Justice Johnson, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the arbitrator reasonably interpreted the JAMS rules as setting the Nov. 23 date as the close of the evidence and allowing 30 days for the issuance of the final award after that. He rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the 30-day period had to have commenced by October under any reasonable interpretation of the rules.
Noting that the arbitration agreement gave the arbitrator “exclusive authority to resolve any dispute regarding the interpretation” of the agreement, and that the JAMS rules contain similar language, the justice wrote:
“In light of the language of the Arbitration Agreement and the Rules, and given the wide-ranging grant of authority to interpret that language, we hold that the arbitrator’s interpretation of the Arbitration Agreement and the Rules was not irrational at all. In fact, it was more than plausible; it was both well-reasoned and reasonable.”
The plaintiff was represented on appeal by Gleason & Favarote’s Paul M. Gleason, Brandyn E. Stedfield and Rina J. Restaino. Manuel Dominguez represented the defendant.
The case is Meza v. Automobile Club of Southern California, B264348.
Copyright 2016, Metropolitan News Company