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Balberdi v. Fedex Ground Package System Inc.

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 29, 2016

NELSON BALBERDI, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDEX GROUND PACKAGE SYSTEM INC., Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO VACATE ARBITRATION AWARD

          Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Nelson Balberdi's ("Plaintiff") Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award, filed on April 7, 2016 ("4/7/16 Motion to Vacate"). [Dkt. no. 12.] Defendant Fedex Ground Package System, Inc. ("Fedex" or "Defendant") filed its memorandum in opposition on May 5, 2016, and Plaintiff filed his reply on May 11, 2016.[1] [Dkt. nos. 19, 20.] The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rule LR7.2(d) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i ("Local Rules"). After careful consideration of the 4/7/16 Motion, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the relevant legal authority, Plaintiff's 4/7/16 Motion to Vacate is HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff worked as a Fedex driver from August 8, 2005, until he was terminated on January 2, 2007. [Mem. in Opp., Decl. of Sarah O. Wang ("Wang Decl."), Exh. C (Pick-Up and Delivery Contractor Operating Agreement) ("Operating Agreement"), at 33 (signature page dated 8/8/2005); Mem. in Supp. of 4/7/16 Motion to Vacate at 2.] The Fedex headquarters are in Pennsylvania. [Wang Decl., Exh. F (Order Granting Respondent's Motion for Summary Judgment, dated 7/20/15) ("7/20/15 Order").] Plaintiff filed a suit against Defendant, among others, in the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit, State of Hawai`i, on July 20, 2012 ("7/20/12 Complaint"). [Wang Decl, Exh. I.] The 7/20/12 Complaint challenges, inter alia, Defendant's termination of his employment. [Id. at ¶¶ 6-10.] On July 5, 2013, the 7/20/12 Complaint was dismissed via stipulation as to all parties, and it was agreed that Plaintiff would submit his claims against Fedex to arbitration. [Wang Decl., Exh. A ("Stipulation for Arbitration"), B (Stipulation for Dismissal of All Claims Against Defendant Fedex Ground Package System, Inc.) ("Stipulation for Dismissal, " collectively "Stipulations").[2] On December 29, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Demand for Arbitration with the American Arbitration Association ("AAA, " and "Arbitration Demand"). [Id., Exh. D.] On July 20, 2015, the arbitrator found that Plaintiff's claims were barred by Pennsylvania's statute of limitations for contract claims and granted Defendant's summary judgment motion. [7/20/15 Order.] The arbitrator filed the award on July 23, 2015 ("Award of Arbitrator"). [Id., Exh. G.]

         On October 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award ("10/22/15 Motion to Vacate") in the same state court action that was dismissed pursuant to the Stipulations. [Notice of Removal, Exh. A.] On November 16, 2015, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal. [Dkt. no. 1.] Defendant states that, "although Plaintiff improperly purported to file his [10/22/15] Motion to Vacate in the long-ago-dismissed Circuit Court Action, his Motion effectively must be treated as the commencement of a new matter pertaining to the Arbitration Award." [Id. at ¶ 9.] On January 7, 2016, the parties met with the magistrate judge, who instructed Plaintiff's counsel to file the 10/22/15 Motion to Vacate in this district court with the federal court caption and civil number. Plaintiff did not file the motion in this district court until April 7, 2016. See 4/7/16 Motion to Vacate.

         The 4/7/16 Motion to Vacate argues that the arbitrator: (1) showed evident partiality by "consistently characteriz[ing] this case as solely a breach of contract case"; (2) refused to hear pertinent and material evidence which "constitute[s] undeniable evidence that if the record had been read and the [a]rbitrator had considered the material evidence contained in that part of the record, there would have been an evidentiary hearing and the case [would] not [have been] disposed of on summary judgment"; and (3) exceeded her authority by "appl[ying] a civil litigation statute of limitations to an arbitration proceeding governed by a private agreement and "ignor[ing] the parties' stipulation which specifically provided that the filing deadline in the Contract was waived."[3] [Mem. in Supp. of 4/7/16 Motion at 5, 7-8, 9.]

         Defendant argues that: pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 12, Plaintiff's 4/7/16 Motion is time-barred; and "Plaintiff has failed to make the requisite showing to warrant vacatur." [Mem. in Opp. at 8.]

         STANDARD

The Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") provides limited circumstances under which a federal court may vacate or modify a binding arbitration award. See 9 U.S.C. §§ 10-11. This authority is extremely narrow and designed to preserve due process but not to permit unnecessary intrusion into private arbitration procedures. Kyocera Corp. v. Prudential-Bache Trade Servs., 341 F.3d 987, 997 (9th Cir. 2003) (en banc).

Kenneth H. Hughes, Inc. v. Aloha Tower Dev., Corp., 654 F.Supp.2d 1142, 1145 (D. Hawai`i 2009). Both parties agree that the FAA applies to the instant matter. See, e.g., Mem. in Supp. of 4/7/16 Motion at 4; Mem. in Opp. at 5.

         The FAA states, in pertinent part:

(a) In any of the following cases the United States court in and for the district wherein the award was made may make an order vacating the award upon the application of any party to the arbitration -
(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 ...

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