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March 03, 2011

Vacating or modifying an arbitrator’s award

Vacating or modifying an arbitrator’s award
Matter of Westchester County Correction Officers Benevolent Assn., Inc. v County of Westchester, 2011 NY Slip Op 01482, Appellate Division, Second Department

Article 75 of the Civil Practice Rules provides that an arbitration award may be vacated by the courts upon a finding of:

a. Corruption, fraud or misconduct in obtaining the award; or

b. Partiality of the arbitrator, unless the award was by "confession;" or

c. The arbitrator exceed his or her authority or so imperfectly executed his or her power that no award as to the subject matter submitted was made; or

d. There was a failure to follow the procedures set out in Article 75.

An arbitrator's award may be modified only if there was a miscalculation of numbers or a mistake in the description of a person or thing; an award was made regarding some matter not submitted to the arbitrator for arbitration; or the award was "imperfect as to form" but not involving the merits of the controversy.

The Westchester case involved a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 75 to vacate an arbitration award. The Appellate Division set out the following guidelines with respect to judicial review of an arbitration award:

1. Judicial review of arbitration awards is extremely limited.

2. An arbitration award must be upheld when the arbitrator offer[s] even a barely colorable justification for the outcome reached.

3. An arbitrator's award should not be vacated for errors of law and fact committed by the arbitrator.

4. Courts should not assume the role of overseers to mold the award to conform to their sense of justice.

In this instance the court held that party seeking to vacate the arbitrator’s award “failed to meet its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the arbitrator committed misconduct, and that such misconduct prejudiced its rights or the integrity of the arbitration process.”

Further, said the Appellate Division, an arbitrator exceeds his or her power within the meaning of CPLR §7511(b)(1)(iii) "only where the arbitrator's award violates a strong public policy, is irrational or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_01482.htm
.

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