Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Rhode Island Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Defendant's motion to confirm an arbitration award in Defendant's favor, holding that the trial justice properly exercised his discretion when he determined, under the circumstances, that Plaintiff's corrected electronic filing rejecting the arbitration award was prompt. In the underlying legal malpractice action Plaintiff alleged that Defendant, his former attorney, had failed properly to record a property settlement agreement that had been executed by Plaintiff and his ex-wife during the course of their divorce proceeding. The action proceeded to arbitration, and an arbitration award was issued in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff rejected the arbitration award using the superior court's electronic filing system but used an incorrect filing code. When Plaintiff learned of his error he attempted a correct filing. That filing was rejected because the statutory filing period had expired. The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's denial of Defendant's motion to confirm the arbitration award, holding that Plaintiff's correct filing was properly considered timely. View "Richard v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a dispute arising from the parties’ lease agreement, the Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court denying Defendant’s motion to stay litigation in favor of arbitration, holding that the parties failed to resolve their dispute through amicable mutual discussions pursuant to an arbitration clause in their agreement, and therefore, their dispute was ripe for arbitration. Plaintiffs leased from Defendant a parcel of land for the purposing of building and maintaining a building. Construction was never commenced, and Plaintiffs demanded that Defendant restore the property to its former condition. Plaintiffs later filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Defendant was in breach of the lease. Defendant moved for a stay of litigation, arguing that the arbitration clause in the lease required that all disputes be resolved by arbitration. The hearing justice denied the motion, concluding that the lease’s arbitration clause applied only to disputes that did not involve an alleged breach of the lease. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the language of the agreement provided that alleged breaches of the lease were to be arbitrated provided that the parties attempted and failed to resolve those disputes through mutual discussions; and (2) because the parties attempted conciliation, their dispute was ripe for arbitration. View "Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education v. Hellenic Society Paideia - Rhode Island Chapter" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the superior court granting the City of Pawtucket’s motion to dismiss Appellant’s motion to vacate an arbitration award issued in connection with the termination of Appellant’s employment as a firefighter with the City and denying Appellant’s motion to substitute a union as the proper plaintiff, holding that the superior court committed no error. After the City terminated Appellant’s employment, the Union filed a grievance against the City challenging the termination. The matter proceeded to arbitration, and the arbitrator rendered a decision finding in favor of the City. Appellant timely filed a motion in the superior court seeking to vacate the arbitration award and moved to amend his pleading to substitute the Union as a proper party. The hearing justice denied Appellant’s motion to substitute and granted the City’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant had no individual standing to bring a motion to vacate the arbitrator’s award; and (2) the hearing justice acted within her discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to amend. View "Gannon v. City of Pawtucket" on Justia Law

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In this appeal by the Rhode Island Troopers Association from a judgment granting declaratory and equitable relief in favor of the State, the Supreme Court affirmed the first six declarations and vacated the remaining two declarations in the superior court’s judgment. Here, the superior court (1) declared that the Governmental Tort Liability Act, R.I. Gen. Laws chapter 31 of title 9, vests the Attorney General with the nondelegable, nontransferable legal duty to determine whether the State should provide a defense and indemnification in a civil action brought against a state employee; and (2) permanently enjoined arbitration of issues related to the Attorney General’s decision to decline to provide a defense and indemnification for a state trooper in a federal civil rights action brought against him in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court properly enjoined the arbitration proceedings because the issues raised were not arbitrable within the collective bargaining process; (2) the superior court properly declared that the Attorney General possesses the nondelegable, nontransferable, sole legal duty to determine whether a state employee was acting within the scope of employment and is therefore entitled to a defense and indemnification; and (3) the remaining two declarations were superfluous to the issues in this case. View "State v. Rhode Island Troopers Ass’n" on Justia Law

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The arbitrator in this case did not manifestly disregard the law or the provisions of the employment agreement at issue when he awarded Defendant extended severance payments based on his finding that Defendant had been the subject of a “de facto termination.” Defendant, the former vice president and chief financial officer of CharterCAREHealth Partners (Plaintiff), invoked the “de facto termination” provision of the parties' employment agreement and requested extended severance, contending that he had suffered a material reduction in his duties and authorities as a result of change in “effective control.” Defendant’s request was denied based on the assessment that he had suffered no material reduction in duties. Defendant filed a demand for arbitration seeking to be awarded extended severance benefits pursuant to the de facto termination provision of the employment agreement. The arbitrator determined that Defendant was entitled to the eighteen-month severance proscribed in the agreement’s de facto termination clause. Plaintiff filed a petition to vacate the arbitration award. The superior court denied the motion to vacate and granted Defendant’ motion to confirm the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was nothing in the record to support Plaintiff’s contention that the arbitrator exceeded his powers or manifestly disregarded the law or the contract. View "Prospect CharterCARE, LLC v. Conklin" on Justia Law

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The arbitrator in this case did not manifestly disregard the law or the provisions of the employment agreement at issue when he awarded Defendant extended severance payments based on his finding that Defendant had been the subject of a “de facto termination.” Defendant, the former vice president and chief financial officer of CharterCAREHealth Partners (Plaintiff), invoked the “de facto termination” provision of the parties' employment agreement and requested extended severance, contending that he had suffered a material reduction in his duties and authorities as a result of change in “effective control.” Defendant’s request was denied based on the assessment that he had suffered no material reduction in duties. Defendant filed a demand for arbitration seeking to be awarded extended severance benefits pursuant to the de facto termination provision of the employment agreement. The arbitrator determined that Defendant was entitled to the eighteen-month severance proscribed in the agreement’s de facto termination clause. Plaintiff filed a petition to vacate the arbitration award. The superior court denied the motion to vacate and granted Defendant’ motion to confirm the arbitration award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was nothing in the record to support Plaintiff’s contention that the arbitrator exceeded his powers or manifestly disregarded the law or the contract. View "Prospect CharterCARE, LLC v. Conklin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court vacating an arbitration award that reinstated Michael Crenshaw to his position as a campus police officer for the Community College of Rhode Island. Crenshaw was allowed to continue in his employment for almost a year without completing the statutorily required police training academy or receiving a waiver from having to do so. When, eventually, Crenshaw’s application for a waiver was not approved, the college terminated his employment. CCRI Educational Support Professional Association/NEARI (the union) brought this grievance. The college denied the grievance, and arbitration ensued. The arbitrator ordered that Crenshaw be reinstated to his position and compensated for lost time. The superior court granted the college’s petition to vacate the arbitration award on the grounds that it was irrational and manifestly disregarded a statutory requirement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitrator exceeded his powers by arbitrating a dispute that was nonarbitrable from the start because Crenshaw’s conditional offer of employment was conditioned on his satisfaction of the statutorily mandated academy requirement. View "Community College of Rhode Island v. CCRI Educational Support Professional Ass’n" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court in favor of the Town of Cumberland granting its motion to vacate an arbitration award in favor of Defendants, the Cumberland Town Employees Union and Norman Tremblay (collectively, the Union). The Town terminated Tremblay’s employment more than one year after Tremblay was injured at work. The Union filed an arbitration demand on Tremblay’s behalf pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement (the CBA) between the Town and the Union. The arbitrator concluded that Tremblay’s grievance was arbitrable and directed the Town to reinstate Tremblay. A superior court hearing justice vacated the award, explaining that the Workers’ Compensation Court had exclusive jurisdiction over reinstatement disputes. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the Union did not seek Tremblay’s reinstatement under the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) but, rather, sought reinstatement based on the rights that the Union asserted the CBA afforded Tremblay beyond those delineated in the WCA; and (2) the Union’s contention that the CBA granted Tremblay greater rights than the WCA was one that the arbitrator could properly decide. View "Town of Cumberland v. Cumberland Town Employees Union" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court that confirmed an arbitration award in favor of Plaintiff and a corresponding judgment of the superior court in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendant in the amount of $72,415, plus statutory interest in the amount of $7,086.24. The parties in this case entered into a contract for the construction of a restaurant. When a dispute arose, the parties proceeded to arbitration. The arbitrator awarded $72,415 to Plaintiff, plus $7,086.24 in interest. The superior court confirmed the arbitration award and entered judgment accordingly. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that none of the conditions pursuant to which an arbitration award must be vacated were present in this case. View "ABC Building Corp. v. Ropolo Family, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying Plaintiff’s petition to vacate an arbitration award, granting Defendant’s petition to confirm the arbitration award, and granting Defendant’s motion to quash the deposition subpoena of the dissenting arbitrator, holding that the hearing justice’s rulings were proper. Plaintiff, an employee of the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB), was operating a PWSB-owned vehicle when he was injured in an accident. Plaintiff sought underinsured motorist coverage through an insurance policy issued by Defendant-insurer to PWSB. The policy contained an arbitration provision. A majority of a panel of three arbitrators issued a decision finding in favor of Defendant, and one arbitrator dissented from the decision. A hearing justice found that majority’s decision to be “rational and logical” and deemed Plaintiff’s subpoena seeking to depose the dissenting arbitrator to be unnecessary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing justice appropriately denied Plaintiff’s petition to vacate the arbitration award; and (2) the issue of whether the hearing justice properly quashed the deposition subpoena of the dissenting arbitrator was waived. View "DiSano v. Argonaut Insurance Co." on Justia Law