Rule For Arbitration Awards Is Different From Rule For Judgments
In North Beach Partners, LLC v. Sollner, A139893 (1/4 July 27, 2015) (Rivera, Ruvolo, Reardon) (unpublished), a hotly contested real estate dispute, the superior court granted a motion to amend a judgment and add additional judgment debtors as alter egos of North Beach Partners (NBP). NBP appealed, contending “the court erred in relying on the arbitrator’s findings because the arbitrator’s award was not yet final and had no collateral estoppel effect.”
While collateral estoppel does apply to arbitration awards, here the appellants argued that the award was not conclusive because an appeal of the order confirming the $476,066.40 award was pending. However, the Court of Appeal explained that unconfirmed arbitration awards are to be viewed as “the equivalent of a final judgment” for purposes of res judicata and collateral estoppel. “The reason for this rule is the limited judicial review applicable to the arbitration awards,” explained the Court, relying on Thibodeau v. Crum, 4 Cal.App.4th 749 (1992).
True, Thibodeau was a res judicata, not a collateral estoppel case, but that difference did not impress the Court. For good measure, the Court added: “Given that the arbitration award has since been confirmed, we cannot conclude that appellants were prejudiced by the court’s application of collateral estoppel to the arbitrator’s finding on the alter ego issue.”