Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation

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Defendant was in debt under a credit card account that he opened and maintained with Bank of America, N.A. Bank of America assigned the right to collect the debt to CACH, LLC, and CACH filed a complaint seeking to recover $10,288.04 from Defendant. After CACH filed a motion for summary judgment, Defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to the arbitration provision of the Cardholder Agreement entered into between Defendant and Bank of America. The hearing justice denied Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration because he had failed to raise a right to arbitrate as an affirmative defense in his answer. The justice then granted summary judgment in favor of CACH. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the hearing justice did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to compel arbitration; and (2) the superior court did not err in granting CACH’s motion for summary judgment. View "CACH, LLC v. Potter" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Nappa Construction Management, LLC (Nappa) and Caroline and Vincent Flynn (the Flynns) entered into a contract for a commercial construction project. Service Insurance Company, Inc. (Service Insurance) furnished a performance bond on the contract. In 2013, the Flynns directed Nappa to stop work on the project. Nappa subsequently submitted an application for payment, which the Flynns declined to pay. Nappa then terminated the contract due to nonpayment. The Flynns filed an action alleging that Nappa had wrongfully terminated the contract. Nappa filed a demand for arbitration in accordance with an arbitration provision in the contract and also named Service Insurance as a party to the arbitration. The arbitrator found that Nappa was not justified in terminating the contract but concluded that, under the termination-for-convenience clause in the contract, neither Nappa nor the Flynns were in breach of the contract. The arbitrator awarded Nappa $37,980. The superior court granted Nappa’s petition to confirm the arbitration award, concluding that the arbitrator did not exceed his powers in holding that the contract was terminated for convenience. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s judgment, holding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in interpreting the contract. View "Nappa Construction Management, LLC v. Flynn" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a pedestrian in a crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle operated by an uninsured motorist. Plaintiff, who was an insured under his mother’s automobile insurance policy, filed suit against The Commerce Insurance Company seeking uninsured motorist coverage for his injuries. The parties stayed the action pending arbitration pursuant to the terms of the policy. The arbitrator awarded Plaintiff a total of $197,550. Plaintiff filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award. Defendant, in turn, filed a motion to modify/correct the arbitration award to conform with the insurance policy, which provided uninsured-motorist coverage up to a limit of $100,000. The superior court granted Defendant’s motion and entered an order for Plaintiff in the amount of $100,000. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the trial justice erred when he (1) reviewed the arbitrator’s award under a de novo review and supplemented the record with the admission of the insurance policy and the testimony of the arbitrator; and (2) modified the arbitration award because there were no grounds to do so under Rhode Island’s Arbitration Act. Remanded with instructions to issue an order confirming the arbitration award. View "Lemerise v. Commerce Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Officer Tori-Lynn Heaton filed a grievance with the City of Cranston seeking to be allowed to retire from the Cranston Police Department at nineteen years, six months, and one day with her full twenty year pension. The City denied the grievance. Because Officer Heaton deferred her retirement until she had served the full twenty years, the issue in dispute at the arbitration was whether the City violated its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 301 when it refused to credit Officer Heaton with a year of service for pension purposes. The arbitrator concluded that the City violated the ‘round-up’ rule of the CBA when it declined to credit Officer Heaton with a full additional year of service. Because there was no remedy available to Officer Heaton where she in fact completed a full twenty years of service before she retired, the arbitrator transmuted the arbitration award into a declaratory judgment. The trial justice granted the City’s motion to vacate, concluding that the arbitrator exceeded his authority when he fashioned an award on a dispute that was not arbitrable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the decision of the arbitrator was improper and outside the bounds of the arbitrator’s authority. View "City of Cranston v. Int’l Brotherhood of Police Officers, Local 301" on Justia Law

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When James Maddalena, a correctional officer with the Department of Corrections (DOC), admitted that another officer was smoking marijuana, in his presence, while on duty, Maddalena was terminated from employment with the DOC. The Rhode Island Brotherhood of Correctional Officers (RIBCO) filed a grievance on behalf of Maddalena in accordance with its collective bargaining agreement (CBA), contending that Maddalena was terminated without just cause. The matter proceeded to arbitration. An arbitrator determined that there was not just cause for Maddalena’s termination and provided that Maddalena be suspended without pay for sixty days. A justice of the superior court granted the DOC’s motion to vacate the arbitration award and denied RIBCO’s motion to confirm the award, determining that the arbitrator exceeded his authority and reached an irrational result because his decision was based upon a manifest disregard of the CBA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice did not err in concluding that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the CBA and that the arbitration award was irrational. View "State Dep’t of Corr. v. R.I. Brotherhood of Corr. Officers" on Justia Law

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Atwood Health Properties, LLC contracted with Calson Construction Company to construct a medical office building. Calson engaged Gem Plumbing & Heating Co., Inc. (GEM) as a subcontractor to design and install a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Five years after the project was completed, Atwood sold the building to Atwood Medical Properties, LLC (AMP). When AMP experienced compressor failures in the HVAC system, AMP filed suit against Atwood. Atwood paid for a new HVAC system and initiated arbitration proceedings against Calson to recover its costs. Calson, in turn, initiated an arbitration proceeding against GEM for indemnification under the parties’ contract. The two arbitration proceedings were consolidated. The arbitrator concluded that Calson should pay Atwood $358,223 and that GEM should pay Calson that same amount. The superior court confirmed the arbitration award. GEM appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial justice properly confirmed the arbitration award. View "Atwood Health Props., LLC v. Calson Constr. Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an architectural firm, signed an agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide architectural and engineering services for renovations at a state-owned property. A Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA) referencing the agreement stated that the compensation was not to exceed a certain amount. When Plaintiff requested additional compensation without success, Plaintiff filed a complaint in the superior court seeking relief. The matter was held in abeyance while a statutory arbitration procedure was underway. The arbitrator concluded that, while Plaintiff rendered additional services to DHS, the additional work was not authorized under the BPA, and therefore, Plaintiff was not entitled to additional compensation. Plaintiff then filed a petition to compel arbitration in the superior court against DHS. The trial justice denied relief, concluding that Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the doctrine of res judicata barred Plaintiff’s claims. View "Torrado Architects v. R.I. Dep’t of Human Servs." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a member of a union, filed a complaint against Defendant, her former employer, alleging that during her employment she was subjected to a hostile work environment on account of her race and color and that she was wrongfully terminated. Defendant filed a motion to stay proceedings, arguing that the proper forum for resolution of Plaintiff’s claims was binding arbitration as required by the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the union and Defendant. A hearing justice granted Defendant’s motion to stay and ordered that the matter be resolved through arbitration. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the hearing justice’s decision was in error because the CBA’s arbitration provision did not preclude her from asserting her statutorily created rights under the Rhode Island Civil Rights Act (RICRA) and Rhode Island Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) in a judicial forum. The Supreme Court vacated the order of the superior court, holding that the CBA’s general arbitration provision, which contained no specific reference to the state anti-discrimination statutes at issue, did not constitute a clear and unmistakable waiver of Plaintiff’s right to a judicial forum in which to litigate her claims arising under the RICRA and the FEPA. Remanded.View "Weeks v. 735 Putnam Pike Operations, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-general contractor entered into an agreement with Defendant-subcontractor to perform work on a project. A dispute arose between the parties when Plaintiff issued Defendant a notice of termination. The issue was submitted to arbitration, and both parties submitted claims to the arbitrator for money damages. The arbitrator found that Plaintiff’s termination of Defendant was wrongful and granted damages. Plaintiff sought to vacate the arbitrator’s award. The trial court concluded that a release signed by Defendant that waived all claims prior to a certain date barred Defendant’s claims. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court, holding that the arbitrator’s decision should have been allowed to stand because it showed due regard for the parties’ release and did not reach an irrational result. View "Berkshire Wilton Partners, LLC v. Bilray Demolition Co." on Justia Law

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The Providence School Board (Board) provided health insurance to active employees and retirees. In 2006, the Providence Teachers Union (Union) filed a grievance protesting a difference in the increase of premium costs for retirees compared with a more modest increase in premium costs for active employees. The Union argued that the Board's action violated three provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the board and the union. An arbitrator ruled in the Union's favor, concluding that the Board violated the CBA by failing to include retirees and active employees in a single group when it calculated the healthcare premium rates. The trial justice vacated the arbitration award, concluding (1) the Union did not have standing to pursue a grievance on behalf of retirees, and (2) the issue of the calculation of the group premium rate was not arbitrable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) pursuant to Arena v. City of Providence and City of Newport v. Local 1080, the Union could not pursue this grievance on behalf of the retirees; and (2) because the Union had no standing to pursue this particular grievance, the grievance was not arbitrable. View "Providence Sch. Bd. v. Providence Teachers Union, Local 958" on Justia Law