Fourth Circuit Enforces Arbitration Agreement’s Waiver of Appellate Review

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The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the enforceability of an employment agreement’s waiver of appellate review of an arbitration award. The waiver purported to waive both judicial and appellate review of the arbitrator’s decision. The district court held the waiver of all judicial review of the arbitration award was unenforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, but nevertheless found the award was enforceable and dismissed the petition to vacate. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit appeared to agree, without deciding, that the complete waiver of all judicial review of an arbitration award was contrary to the FAA but found the waiver of appellate review to be consistent with the FAA’s policy objectives. In so doing, the court noted that arbitration awards are increasingly “reflexive[ly] appealed … leading to arbitration no longer being treated as an alternative to litigation, but as its precursor. The reflexive appeal of an arbitration award is all the more lamentable when the parties have expressly waived that right.” Finding no reason to reject the parties’ contractual agreement to waive appellate review, the court dismissed the appeal. 

Beckley Oncology Associates, Inc. v. Abumasmah, No. 19-1751 (4th Cir. Apr. 8, 2021).

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