Arbitration Anguish

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Q: In a two-car collision, I injured my shoulder.  My insurer denied my claim for no-fault benefits.  After the hearing in our arbitration proceeding, but before the decision, I settled my lawsuit against the other driver, for his policy limit, and now was able to make a second claim with my own insurer – for supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist (SUM) benefits.  The insurer denied that, too, and I commenced a second arbitration proceeding, on the SUM claim.

Before the hearing in the SUM arbitration, the no-fault arbitrator found in my favor.  Although I introduced his decision, the second arbitrator refused to be bound by it.  Instead, the SUM arbitrator issued an award in favor of the insurer.  In a finding diametrically opposite to that of the no-fault arbitrator, the SUM arbitrator concluded that my injury was not even caused by the accident.

A:  Unfortunately, the fact that a second arbitration decision is not consistent with the first one is not a ground for vacating the second decision.  It was within the SUM arbitrator’s sole discretion to determine whether the no-fault decision made it impossible for you to lose now.  The SUM arbitrator was not even required to state that he had considered your impossibility argument.

Unlike a trial court’s rulings, an arbitrator’s are largely not reviewable.  The question as to whether a prior award constitutes a bar to the relief sought is within the exclusive province of the arbitrator.  If a court makes an error and fails properly to rule on such an issue, the ruling can be reviewed and corrected on appeal.  By contrast, even if an arbitrator errs, the general limitation on judicial review of arbitral awards bars a court from disturbing the decision unless the resulting arbitral award violates a strong public policy, is irrational or clearly exceeds a specifically-enumerated limitation on the arbitrator’s power.

Unless the SUM arbitration award was patently irrational or so egregious as to violate public policy (which from these facts seems unlikely) that award is beyond the review powers of a court.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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