Once Plaintiff Knew of Arbitrator’s Relationship With Defendant, Plaintiff Was On Inquiry Notice To Ask About Details
An arbitrator must make certain disclosures within 10 days of receiving notice of his or her nomination to serve as a neutral arbitrator. See CCP section 1281.9. Once the arbitrator makes those disclosures, a party has 15 days to serve a “notice” for disqualification that is akin to a peremptory challenge, or may serve a “demand” for disqualification outside the 15-day deadline, akin to a challenge for cause.
Here, the arbitrator served disclosures describing his relationship with defendant State Farm, but left out additional details required by statute – the amounts of awards in matters he had handled. Plaintiff appealed the judgment confirming the arbitration award, seeking to set it aside because of inadequate disclosures by the arbitrator. Avedikian v. State Farm, Case No. F063595 (5th Dist. Dec. 18, 2013) (Gomes, J., author) (unpublished).
The dispositive authority on failure to timely object to an arbitrator’s disclosures is Dornbirer v. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., 166 Cal.App.4th 831 (2008). Dornbirer holds that “the words ‘failed to disclose within the time required for disclosure a ground for disqualification of which the arbitrator was then aware’ in section 1286.2 refer to a failure to disclose the existence and nature of any relationship between the arbitrator and the parties or the parties’ attorneys, not the specifics of each such relationship.”
Justice Gomes explains that once the party is “informed of the arbitrator’s connection to other participants in the arbitration,” the party is on inquiry notice and can seek additional information or exercise rights to serve a notice of disqualification. What the party “cannot do is passively reserve the issue for consideration in subsequent court proceedings.” That’s what happened here, resulting in waiver of objections.
The judgment confirming the arbitration award was affirmed.
TIP: When you receive the arbitrator’s disclosures, check out the procedures for disqualifying an arbitrator set forth in section 1281.91.