July 07, 2021

Reasons why a party's motion to vacate an arbitration award could be denied

A City of Newburgh[City] police officer [Petitioner] was operating a police vehicle when that vehicle was struck in the rear by an underinsured vehicle. As a result, Petitioner sought to arbitrate a claim against the City for supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist [SUM] benefits.

Ultimately an arbitration award was issued in favor of Petitioner, who sought to confirm the award. The City cross-moved to vacate the award, contending that the arbitrator exceeded her power in issuing an award in favor of Petitioner claiming that the police vehicle Petitioner was operating at the time of the accident was not covered by the SUM endorsement, and thus, there was no agreement to arbitrate. Supreme Court granted Plaintiff's motion to confirm the award, denied the City's cross motion to vacate the award, and the City appealed.

The Appellate Division ruled that Supreme Court had properly [1] granted Plaintiff's granted the motion to confirm the arbitration award, [2] correctly denied the City's cross motion to vacate the arbitration award, and [3] appropriately confirmed the arbitration award.

The court explained:

1. An arbitration award may be vacated, as relevant with respect to the City's motion in this action, where "a party's rights were impaired by an arbitrator who 'exceeded his [or her] power or so imperfectly executed it that a final and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made'"; and

2. "[A]n arbitrator 'exceed[s] his [or her] power' under the meaning of [CPLR 7511(b)(1)(iii)]; or

3. "Where [the] 'award violates a strong public policy, is irrational or clearly exceeds a specifically enumerated limitation on the arbitrator's power'".

The Appellate Division rejected the City's contention that the arbitrator exceed her power, or violate public policy, by rendering an award based on the issues of whether Petitioner had suffered a serious injury under Insurance Law §5102(d) and the extent of his damages, which were the only issues placed before her by the parties.

Citing Matter of Infinity Indem. Ins. Co. v Hereford Ins. Co., 149 AD3d 1075, the court opined that "Having fully participated in the arbitration proceeding, the City cannot seek to vacate the award on the basis that there was no coverage and no agreement to arbitrate."

The Appellate Division's ruling is posted on the Internet HERE.

 

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