Wednesday, August 22, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Judge Cannot Review Arbitrator’s ‘Partial Final Award’
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal yesterday affirmed a judge’s dismissal of a petition to vacate a “partial final award” issued by a JAMS arbitrator, holding that only final awards are reviewable.
Justice Marla J. Miller of Div. Two wrote the opinion.
The case involves the alleged misclassification of workers as independent contractors by appellant Maplebear, Inc., which owns Instacart, a San Francisco-based same-day grocery delivery service. Pursuant to the agreement between the parties, respondent Donna Busick brought the class action arbitration on behalf of herself and all similarly situated Instacart delivery drivers in Massachusetts, where she worked for the company.
The JAMS rules regarding class action arbitrations require the parties to first seek a ruling by the arbitrator on whether their arbitration agreement allows class certification. The arbitrator in the case issued a document entitled “Partial Final Award on Clause Construction Regarding Putative Class Arbitration,” prompting Maplebear to ask the San Francisco Superior Court to vacate the partial final award.
Trial Court’s Jurisdiction
Under the California Arbitration Act (“CAA”), the Superior Court has the power to confirm, correct, or vacate an arbitrator’s award on request by a petitioner.
Code of Civil Procedure §1283.4 sets forth:
“The award shall be in writing and signed by the arbitrators concurring therein. It shall include a determination of all the questions submitted to the arbitrators the decision of which is necessary in order to determine the controversy.”
“The controversy that Busick placed before the arbitrator raises a host of issues beyond the question whether the Agreement permits classwide arbitrations; none of them is addressed in the arbitrator’s partial final award. The ruling says nothing about the essential dispute, which is whether the people who work for Instacart are properly classified as independent contractors, and it does not even determine whether class certification is appropriate. Because it leaves unanswered almost every question raised in Busick’s arbitration demand, the ruling is not an award under section 1283.4.”
Under opinion last year by this district’s Court of Appeal in Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. v. Superior Court, which Miller, a superior court only has jurisdiction over awards which meet the description of §1283.4.
Appellate Court’s Jurisdiction
Miller rejected Busick’s claim that her court lacked jurisdiction to hear an appeal from a “denial” of a petition to vacate an arbitrator’s award. Busick argued that, because Kahn had styled his order as one “denying” Maplebear’s petition, it did not fall under Code of Civil Procedure §1294(b) which allows appeals from “[a]n order dismissing a petition to confirm, correct or vacate an award.”
“The CAA does not contemplate the denial of a petition to vacate an award, except where the denial is a precursor to a judgment confirming the award….But that is not the context here. The Busick/Instacart arbitration is in its most preliminary stage, and the trial court declined to take any action whatsoever with respect to the ‘award.’ Further, in circumstances similar to this appeal, the Court of Appeal concluded in Kaiser…that under the CAA, dismissal of a petition to vacate is the appropriate action when (as here) the trial court determines that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the petition. We thus construe the order here as dismissing a petition to vacate an award, which makes the order appealable.”
The case is Maplebear, Inc. v. Busick, A151677.
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