New York Federal Court Declines to Modify Arbitration Award to Include Attorneys’ Fees and Costs

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The plaintiff filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York seeking to modify an arbitration award to include reasonable attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. The award had been issued to the plaintiff and another similarly situated claimant in connection with their labor law claims against the defendants. The award provided that administrative fees and the arbitrator’s compensation “shall be borne as incurred” but did not address attorneys’ fees or other costs. The plaintiff therefore requested that the court modify the award pursuant to section 11(a) of the FAA on the basis that the arbitrator made “an evident material mistake” in failing to include attorneys’ fees and costs in the award.

At the outset, the court explained that section 11 provides the exclusive grounds for modifying an arbitration award and that the grounds are “grudgingly narrow.” Although relevant labor laws mandated that prevailing claimants be awarded reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, it remains the claimant’s burden to submit documentation supporting the reasonableness and necessity of the fees and costs incurred. Absent support, the fees and costs cannot be awarded. Here, claimants’ counsel was given an opportunity to submit post-hearing briefing to the arbitrator, at which time the court noted it would have been appropriate for counsel to request and provide support for his attorneys’ fees and costs. Given counsel’s inexplicable failure to do so, the court found the post hoc request for the court to modify the award to include such fees and costs was foreclosed by the FAA. As such, the request to modify the award was denied.

Chen v. Kyoto Sushi, Inc., No. 2:15-cv-07398 (E.D.N.Y. Apr. 1, 2021)

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