Review of Arbitration Award

Escapes! To The Shores Condominium Association, et al. v. Hoar Construction, et al., [Ms. 1210378, Feb. 17, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Sellers, J.; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Mendheim, Stewart, Mitchell, and Cook, JJ., concur) affirms the Baldwin Circuit Court’s denial of Escapes! To the Shores Condominium Association, Inc.’s (“the Association”) Rule 59 motion to vacate an arbitration award entered in a construction dispute.

The Association argued because the underlying action involves still-pending claims against a party who was not required to arbitrate, the “judgment entered on the arbitration award pursuant to Rule 71B is not a final judgment ....” Ms. *4. Citing the word "promptly" in Rule 71B(f), Ala. R. Civ. P., the Court concludes the rule “contemplates that a final judgment shall be entered on the arbitration award immediately” regardless of whether claims remain pending against a party who was not subject to the arbitration agreement. Ms. *6. Even assuming Rule 71B and Rule 54(b)were in conflict, “Rule 71B, the more specific rule regarding appeals of arbitration awards, would prevail over Rule 54(b), the broader rule relating to certification of certain otherwise nonfinal orders as final judgments.” Ms. *7, citing Ex parte Jones Mfg. Co., 589 So. 2d 208, 211 (Ala. 1991) ("[i]n the event of a conflict between two statutes, a specific statute relating to a specific subject is regarded as an exception to, and will prevail over, a general statute relating to a broad subject").

The Court noted that 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(3) of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) “authorizes a court to vacate an arbitration award when ‘the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct ... in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy.’” Ms. **8-9. Noting that judicial review of arbitration awards is extremely limited and that arbitrators enjoy broad discretion in evidentiary matters, the Court holds, “the arbitration panel's decision to deny the Association's motion to reopen discovery to compel a search for additional evidence did not rise to the level of misconduct described in § 10(a)(3), nor did it yield a fundamentally unfair hearing under the FAA.” Ms. *13.

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