April 30, 2019

Guidelines followed by the judiciary in adjudicating motions to confirm or deny arbitration awards

In a proceeding pursuant to CPLR Article 75 brought by Petitioner [P] to confirm two arbitration awards, the Respondent [R] cross-petitioned to vacate the awards. Supreme Court confirmed both arbitration awards and denied R's cross-petitions. R appealed the Supreme Court's decisions.

The Appellate Division affirmed Supreme Court's ruling, explaining:

1. Judicial review of arbitration awards is extremely limited and unless the court determines that the arbitration award "violates a strong public policy, is totally irrational, or exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's powers," it may not be vacated;

2. The party seeking to vacate an arbitration award bears a "heavy burden" of proving by "clear and convincing evidence" that impropriety by the arbitrator prejudiced that party's rights or impaired the integrity of the arbitration process;

3. Courts are bound by an arbitrator's factual findings, interpretation of the contract and judgment concerning remedies;

4.  A court cannot examine the merits of an arbitration award and substitute its judgment for that of the arbitrator simply because it believes the court's interpretation would be the better one; and

5. Even in circumstances where an arbitrator makes errors of law or fact, courts will not assume the role of overseers to conform the arbitration award to the court's sense of justice.

Finding that R did not contend that the arbitration awards violated public policy or exceeded a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's powers, nor that the arbitration awards were irrational, the Appellate Division said it agree with the Supreme Court's [1] determination granting P's petition to confirm the awards; [2] the lower court's denying D's cross-petition; and [3] its confirming both of the arbitration awards.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: