February 16, 2018

The authority of a court to modify an arbitration award is limited

The authority of a court to modify an arbitration award is limited
Matter of Lackawanna Professional Fire Fighters Assn., Local 3166, IAFF, AFL-CIO (City of Lackawanna), 2017 NY Slip Op 08994, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Supreme Court Lackawanna Professional Fire Fighters Association's petition to confirm an arbitration award and granted the City of Lackawanna's motion to vacate the award. The Association appealed and the Appellate Division unanimously reversed the Supreme Court's ruling "on the law" confirmed arbitration award in favor of the Association.

The Appellate Division ruled that in this instance the arbitrator had merely interpreted and applied the provisions of the relevant collective bargaining agreement [CBA] as she had the authority to do.

The Appellate Division explained that a court is powerless to set aside the arbitrator's interpretation of the contract provision at issue "merely because the court disagrees with it" and a court may not countenance such an action. In any event, we conclude that the plain language of the CBA supports the arbitrator's reasoning. Nothing in the CBA suggests that the contribution requirement applies to retirees so as to render that language ambiguous. If the parties had wished to create such a requirement, they could have done so. Indeed, the record establishes that respondent previously proposed adding such a requirement to the CBA, but that proposal was rejected through collective bargaining.

By vacating the arbitration award, Supreme Court had effectively amended the CBA by adding a provision that the parties previously declined to adopt. Accordingly, the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court's order, granting the Association's petition to confirm the arbitration award.

§7511(b) of the Civil Practice Law and Rules sets out the limited grounds authorizing  a court's vacating an arbitration award as follows:

 1. The award shall be vacated on the application of a party who either participated in the arbitration or was served with a notice of intention to arbitrate if the court finds that the rights of that party were prejudiced by:

 (i) corruption, fraud or misconduct in procuring the award; or

 (ii) partiality of an arbitrator appointed as a neutral, except where the award was by confession; or

 (iii) an arbitrator, or agency or person making the award exceeded his [or her] power or so imperfectly executed it that a final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made; or

 (iv) failure to follow the procedure of this article, unless the party applying to vacate the award continued with the arbitration with notice of the defect and without objection.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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