United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
JOSEPH V. ARALAR, Plaintiff,
SCOTT MCREA AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, LLLP, A Florida Limited Liability, Defendant.
TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case comes before the Court on two post-arbitration motions.
Defendant Scott McRae Automotive Group, LLLP
(“McRae”) filed a Motion to Confirm the Arbitration
Award (Doc. 13), and Plaintiff Joseph V. Aralar
(“Aralar”) acknowledges the validity of the
underlying award yet filed a Motion to Vacate the Arbitration
Award regarding the award's associated attorneys'
fees. (Doc. 14). McRae also filed a response to Aralar's
motion. (Doc. 15). Upon review of these filings, the Court is
now fully advised and rules as follows.
who worked as a service advisor in McRae's automobile
service center, brought suit against his employer under the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), alleging
unpaid overtime and back wages. (Doc. 1 at 1). Pointing to
the arbitration agreement that Aralar signed as a condition
of employment (Doc. 5-1), McRae filed a motion to compel
arbitration and dismiss (Doc. 6). Most relevant for the
present action, the arbitration agreement included the
If a party who has agreed to arbitrate claims under this
procedure files or causes to be filed in court or state
agency a complaint alleging a claim or cause of action which
is subject to arbitration under this procedure, the
defendant/respondent will notify the party or the party's
attorney (if an attorney has entered an appearance) of the
existence of the Arbitration Agreement, and request that the
case be dismissed or stayed. If the party does not move to
dismiss or stay the action within 10 calendar days of
service, and the defendant/respondent successfully moves to
dismiss or stay the case and refer it to arbitration, the
defendant/respondent may submit a request for payment of fees
and costs to the Arbitrator, who shall award to the
defendant/ respondent and against the party the defendant/
respondent's reasonable costs and attorneys [sic] fees
incurred because of the filing of the complaint.
(Doc. 6-1 at 3).
fits and starts from Aralar (Doc. 9), this Court granted
McRae's motion to compel arbitration on June 6, 2016, and
stayed the case pending the results of the arbitration. (Doc.
15, 2017, Arbitrator Robert Cowles (“Cowles”)
granted McRae's motion for judgment on the pleadings,
noting that Aralar's job as a service advisor was exempt
from FLSA requirements. (Doc. 13-5). On August 24, 2017, in
accordance with the terms of the arbitration agreement,
Cowles awarded McRae the sum of $19, 291.58 to cover
attorneys' fees and costs. (Doc 13-18). McRae filed a
motion to confirm the arbitration award (Doc. 13), and Aralar
filed an opposite motion to vacate the attorneys' fees
from the award. (Doc. 14).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Congressional policy of promoting contractually imposed
arbitration requires that courts do not intrude unnecessarily
into questions settled by arbitration, lest the efficiency of
the arbitration process be lost.” Robbins v.
Day, 954 F.2d 679, 682 (11th Cir. 1992). With that
public policy rationale in mind, the Eleventh Circuit
determined that “[j]udicial review of commercial
arbitration awards is narrowly limited under the Federal
Arbitration Act (‘FAA').” B.L. Harbert
Int'l, LLC v. Hercules Steel Co., 441 F.3d 905, 909
(11th Cir. 2006) (citing 9 U.S.C. §§ 10-11).
“The FAA presumes the confirmation of arbitration
awards . . . and federal courts should defer to an
arbitrator's decision whenever possible.”
Frazier v. CitiFinancial Corp., 604 F.3d 1313 (11th
Cir. 2010). (citations omitted); Cat Charter, LLC v.
Schurtenberger, 646 F.3d 836, 842 (11th Cir. 2011);
AIG Baker Sterling Heights, LLC v. American Multi-Cinema,
Inc., 508 F.3d 995, 999 (11th Cir. 2007).
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. Frazier, 604 F.3d at 1321-24
(discussing generally Hall Street Assocs., L.L.C. v.
Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576 (2008)). A court's
authority to vacate an arbitration decision is narrowly
limited to the four circumstances outlined 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; (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. 9 U.S.C. § 10(a); Frazier, 604 F.3d at
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.” Stolt-Nielsen S.A. v. AnimalFeeds Int'l
Corp., 559 U.S. 662, 671 (2010); see Oxford Health
Plans LLC v. Sutter, 569 U.S. 564, 572 (2013)
(“[C]onvincing a court of an arbitrator's
error-even his grave error-is not enough. So long as the
arbitrator was arguably construing the contract . . . a court
may not correct his mistakes under §10(a)(4).”).
Rather, arbitration awards are presumed to be correct, and
the burden to rebut this presumption is on the party
requesting vacatur. Robbins, 954 F.2d at 684.
Otherwise, the court must confirm the award. Hall Street
Assocs., 552 U.S. at 587.
addition to the statutory bases for vacatur outlined above, a
court may modify an arbitration award for any of the
following three reasons: (1) Where there was an evident
material miscalculation of figures or an evident material
mistake in the description of any person, thing, or property
referred to in the award; (2) where the arbitrators have
awarded upon a matter not submitted to them, unless it is a
matter not affecting the merits of the decision upon the
matter submitted; or (3) where the award is imperfect in
matter of form not affecting the merits of the controversy. 9
U.S.C. § 11; Frazier, 604 F.3d at 1321.