Court Shows No Sympathy For Circumstance Of Defendant/Appellant Whose Party Arbitrator Died.
Here, the arbitration panel proceeded with arbitration after the death of defendant/appellant Mitchell’s party arbitrator, refusing to continue the hearing to permit Mitchell to select another party arbitrator. That sounds pretty harsh, but read on: “As troublesome as this circumstance may appear at first blush, the record fully supports the finding of the panel that Mitchell had ‘evinced his unwillingness to participate in [the arbitration] proceedings repeatedly during the scheduling of this matter . . . ‘“ Perhaps we should add that Mitchell is an attorney, and that the arbitration involved a fee dispute between Mitchell and his own attorneys who represented him in marital dissolution proceedings. Schapiro-Thorn, Inc. v. Mitchell, A140800 (1/3 April 21, 2015) (Pollak, McGuiness, Siggins) (unpublished).
The Court suggested AAA rules “reflect the fundamental policy that a recalcitrant party should not be permitted to obstruct the expeditious resolution of disputes submitted to arbitration.” The Court concluded the decision of two panel members to proceed in the absence of Mitchell’s party arbitrator, who had died, “given Mitchell’s total compliance with the governing rules and procedures, was in full accord with this policy and neither an abuse of discretion nor beyond the arbitrators’ authority.”
Moral: Parties – especially attorneys – who wish to take advantage of the rules, do well to play by the rules. Live by the sword, die by the sword.