New Decision on Arbitrators' Authority


In March 2008, the United States Supreme Court held that parties may not contractually expand the scope of judicial review to include “errors of law.” Hall Street Assocs., LLC v. Mattel, Inc., 128 S. Ct. 1396 (2008). Therefore, the Supreme Court declined to enforce an arbitration clause provision that allowed judicial review of an arbitrator’s errors of law.

In the wake of Hall Street, parties have disputed whether an “error of law” provision in an arbitration clause invalidates the entire arbitration agreement, and whether such a dispute should be decided by the courts or by arbitrators.

A Barger & Wolen victory this month in a New York appellate court has answered who should decide the issue. See Life Receivables Trust v. Goshawk Syndicate 102 at Lloyd’s, __, N.Y.S.2d. __, No. 602934/08, 2009 WL 3255942 (1st Dep’t Oct. 13, 2009). That question is for the arbitrators where the arbitration clause incorporates AAA or similar rules.

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