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McCurdy v. Virginia College, LLC

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

March 7, 2018

CAROL L. MCCURDY, Petitioner/Cross-Respondent,
VIRGINIA COLLEGE, LLC, Respondent/Cross-Petitioner.



         THIS CAUSE is before the Court on the following: Petitioner's Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award (“Motion to Vacate”) (Doc. 1), her Memorandum in support thereof (Doc. 2), and Respondent's Response thereto (Doc. 4); and Respondent's Petition to Confirm Arbitration Award (“Motion to Confirm”) (Doc. 6) and Petitioner's Response thereto (Doc. 19). The Motions were referred to the undersigned for a report and recommendation regarding an appropriate resolution.[2] (Doc. 14.) For the reasons set forth herein, the undersigned respectfully RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Vacate be DENIED, and that the Motion to Confirm be GRANTED.

         I. Background

         Pro se Petitioner, a graduate of Virginia College, LLC (“Respondent”), sought recourse against Respondent through arbitration following numerous disputes that arose while she was a student.[3] Specifically, Petitioner alleged that Respondent did not provide her with an adequate education; that it charged her for services such as housing, meals, and transportation that were not provided; that she was not provided with a work-study position; that teachers improperly changed her grades in some classes; and that when she raised these issues to the president of the college, he had her escorted off campus by security and had her stipend check withheld. (See Doc. 19.)

         As a result, Petitioner brought claims against Respondent in arbitration for breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), fraud, and unlawful discrimination. (See Doc. 6-2.) Petitioner sought damages exceeding one million dollars. (See Doc. 2-3.) The arbitrator found in favor of Respondent on all claims. (Id.) Petitioner now seeks to vacate the arbitrator's award, and Respondent seeks to confirm the award. (Docs. 1 & 6.)

         II. Standard

         Upon review of the relevant statutory and Eleventh Circuit authority, this Court has stated:

Judicial review of commercial arbitration awards is narrowly limited under the Federal Arbitration Act [9 U.S.C. §§ 1, et seq. (“FAA”)].[4] The FAA presumes the confirmation of arbitration awards . . . and federal courts should defer to an arbitrator's decision whenever possible. Previously recognized non-statutory grounds for vacatur-such as, that the arbitration decision was arbitrary and capricious, violated public policy, or evidenced manifest disregard for the law-are no longer viable. Instead, a court's authority to vacate an arbitration is limited to the four circumstances provided in the FAA:
(1) where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means;
(2) where there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators, or either of them;
(3) where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing, upon sufficient cause shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy; or of any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced; or
(4) where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made.
An arbitrator need not state the reasons for his award. A petitioner does not clear the high hurdle required to vacate an award by show[ing] that the [arbitrator] committed an error-or even a serious error. Rather, arbitration awards are presumed to be correct, and the burden to rebut this presumption is on the party requesting vacatur. Otherwise, the court must confirm the award.

Franskousky v. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, No. 3:14-cv-878-J-32JRK, 2014 WL 7224462, at *2-3 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 17, 2014) (Corrigan, J.) (citations and quotations omitted).

         III. Analysis

         Despite Petitioner's use of various conclusory labels such as “Arbitrator misconduct; Arbitrator evidently partial; Arbitrator's manifest disregard of the law of contracts; denial of fundamental fairness of the arbitration process (failed to grant [Petitioner] a fair hearing), ” she fails to sufficiently allege any basis to vacate the arbitration award. (See Doc. 1 at 1; Docs. 2 & 9.) Rather, Petitioner is largely asking the Court to re-weigh the evidence and reach different conclusions than those reached by the arbitrator. (See Docs. 2 & 9.) Therefore, the undersigned recommends that the award be confirmed.

         Petitioner's specific arguments fall into three broad categories: manifest disregard of the law; failure to grant a fair hearing; and failure to properly address the merits of her claims. (See Docs. 2 & 19.) The undersigned will address each in turn.

         A. Manifest ...

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