Weekly Law Resume: Civil Procedure – Stipulated High/Low Arbitration Binding as Contractual Term

by Low, Ball & Lynch

Elsie Horath v. John Hess

Court Of Appeal, Fourth District (April 10, 2014)

Parties sometimes stipulate to high end/low end figures for arbitration, in an attempt to resolve a case that might not otherwise resolve short of trial.  In this case, the Court of Appeal considered such a stipulated agreement in the context of other statutory rules involving post-arbitration enforcement of an award.

Plaintiff Elsie Horath (“Horath”) was injured in an automobile accident with defendant John Hess (“Hess”).  Horath and Hess stipulated to resolve their dispute through arbitration and agreed that Hess would pay at least $44,000 and no more than $100,000, not including costs.  The parties also agreed that the arbitrator would not be informed of the “high-low” agreement.  The arbitrator awarded $366,527.22, including costs.  Horath filed a petition to confirm the arbitration award in the underlying Superior Court action, which apparently was unopposed.  Hess belatedly filed a motion to limit the judgment to the amount of $100,000, but this motion was denied because it was not filed within the one hundred day limit under Code of Civil Procedure Sections 1288 and 1288.2.  The court entered judgment for Horath in the amount of $366,527.22.  Horath rejected Hess’ tender of $100,000 plus costs as full satisfaction of the judgment.

After the judgment had been entered, Hess apparently filed a separate action and filed a motion for acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 724.050.  Horath opposed the motion, arguing that this motion was an improper procedural attack upon a judgment which had already been entered in a separate case.  The court denied Hess’ motion for acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment on the grounds that the motion improperly requested the court to imply new terms in the stipulation to arbitration and would be an unauthorized modification of the arbitration award.  Also, the trial court found Hess’ failure to timely file motions to modify the award and to object to the judgment prior to its entry as further grounds for denying Hess’ motion.  Hess appealed the rulings in both actions.

The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s denial of Hess’ motion for acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment and further held that ruling rendered the appeal of the underlying judgment based upon the arbitration award moot.  The Appellate Court held that the trial court had failed to interpret the stipulation to arbitration properly.  The Court of Appeal held that the stipulation’s language clearly stated that any party could have the arbitration award entered as a judgment pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 1285 et seq., but the stipulation also provided that Horath would not accept more than $100,000 plus costs.  The stipulation did not contain any language requiring Hess to enforce the stipulation’s “high-low” provision, to file a motion to vacate or correct the arbitration award or to respond to a petition to confirm the award.  The Court of Appeal found that the stipulation’s language implicitly, if not expressly, prohibited Hess from challenging the amount of the award or the judgment.  Therefore, to enforce the stipulation’s “high-low” provision, Hess necessarily would have the right to fully satisfy the judgment by paying or tendering an amount within the “high-low” provision (i.e., a maximum amount of $100,000 plus costs).  The stipulation required Horath to accept $100,000 plus costs in full satisfaction of the judgment entered confirming the award.

After being tendered the $100,000 plus costs, Horath should have filed an acknowledgment of full satisfaction of judgment.  When Horath refused to file the acknowledgment of full satisfaction of judgment, Hess properly filed a motion to require Horath to do so pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 724.050.  This motion should have been granted even though Hess did not file a motion to vacate or correct the arbitration award or timely file a motion to limit the judgment.  When Hess’ motion for acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment was denied, Horath recovered attorney’s fees for opposing the motion pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 724.080.  As a result of the reversal of the trial court’s order denying Hess’ motion, Horath’s recovery of attorney’s fees was reversed, and the Appellate Court indicated that Hess may recover attorney’s fees from Horath for having to bring the motion pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure § 724.080.


This decision should deter any party from attempting to circumvent a stipulated limitation for an arbitration award if the actual award is lower or higher than the stipulated “high-low” limits.  Even obtaining a judgment based upon the arbitration award will not preclude a party from enforcing the stipulation through a motion for acknowledgment of satisfaction of judgment.

For a copy of the complete decision, see:


Written by:

Low, Ball & Lynch

Low, Ball & Lynch on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.