Court of Appeal Distinguishes Between Service For Purposes Of Notice And Service For Purposes Of Jurisdiction.
Claimants appealed a judgment entered after the trial court granted the petition of insurer GEICO to confirm an award in its favor in an uninsured motorist case where there were questions about coverage. GEICO General Ins. Co. v. Schroeder, D068203 (4/1 May 31, 2016) (McDonald, Nares, Prager) (unpublished). Unfortunately for the claimants/appellants, they waited more than 100 days after service of the signed award to seek vacation of the award in the superior court. The statutory scheme requires the court to confirm the award as made unless it corrects the award and confirms it as corrected, vacates the award or dismisses the proceeding. So end of story. Well, not quite.
Claimants argued that the award had been defectively served. In fact, Cal. Code Civ. Proc., section 1283.6, requires the arbitrator to “serve a signed copy of the award on each party to the arbitration personally or by registered or certified mail or as provided in the agreement.” That wasn’t done here.
The Court, however, held that the defect in service was not jurisdictional, distinguishing service of the motion to vacate from service of the award itself. The purpose of service of the award is to confer notice, and Claimants did not contend that they did not get notice, or that they were prejudiced by defective service. In contrast, service of a motion to vacate must be done according to statute, because the court only acquires jurisdiction to vacate on proper service. “Claimants conflate notice with service of process,” wrote the Court, adding, “but the two requirements are distinct.”