Review of Arbitrator's Decision on Availability of Class Arbitration


Alabama Psychiatric Services, P.C. v. Lazenby, [Ms. 1170856, June 21, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). The Court (Bryan, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, Mendheim, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur; Seller, J., concurs in the result; Wise, J., recuses) affirms the Jefferson Circuit Court’s judgment denying defendants’ motion to vacate the arbitrator’s decision that class arbitration was available. Ms. *32. Pursuant to Rule 3 of the AAA’s Supplementary Rules for Class Arbitration, a party may request the arbitrator for a clause-construction award determining whether class arbitration is available. Ms. *2-3.

The Court held that

[t]he circuit court, in its earlier order compelling arbitration, ... conclud[ed] that the arbitrator should decide whether class arbitration is available. APS and MHCA could have appealed the circuit court’s order and argued on appeal that the parties had never agreed to submit the class-question to an arbitrator; however, APS and MHCA did not do that, thus precluding any further judicial review of that issue. Accordingly, APS and MHCA cannot establish that the circuit court should have applied a de novo standard of review based on a conclusion that the parties had never agreed to submit the class-action issue to the arbitrator.

Ms. *18.

Because of the failure of the defendants to appeal the circuit court’s initial order that the arbitrator would decide availability of class arbitration, the Court concluded that “‘the sole question for us is whether the arbitrator (even arguably) interpreted the parties’ contract, not whether he got its meaning right or wrong.’ Oxford Health [Plans, LLC v. Sutter, 569 U.S. 564, 569 (2013)]. The arbitrator here interpreted the policy; our review of the award goes no further than that determination.” Ms. *28.

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