Burr & Forman

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has held that new arguments for vacatur or modification first raised over 90-days post-award do not relate-back and may not be considered under the State’s version of the Uniform Arbitration Act.

The Court held that an amended pleading seeking to vacate an arbitration award delivered over 90 days earlier does not relate back to the original pleading date (within the 90 days) under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 15.03.

The 90-day limitations period within which to move to vacate under Tennessee’s Uniform Arbitration Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-5-301 et seq., is jurisdictional.

Section 313(b) requires that a petition stating the grounds urged for vacatur must be filed within 90 days after the award is delivered to the parties.  Section 312 mandates confirmation except for the narrow grounds for modification or vacatur raised “within the time limits hereinafter imposed.”  Significantly, the Act requires both the filing of the petition within 90 days and that the petition must state the “grounds … urged for vacating or modifying or correcting the award.”  Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-5-312.  Even if a post-90-day pleading might relate back, any new grounds asserted within it could not.

The Court distinguished some cases allowing the relation-back of post-90-day pleadings under the Federal Arbitration Act, because it merely requires “notice” of a motion to vacate or modify within 90 days post-award. 9 U.S.C. § 12.  See, e.g., Bonar v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 835 F. 2d 1378, 1382 (11th Cir. 1988).  But the Tennessee (Uniform) Act requires both the petition and the grounds to be urged within 90 days.  Compare Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-5-312.  The Court of Appeals relied upon similar decisions under the Uniform Arbitration Act by Courts in Idaho and Massachusetts.

The decision highlights a small, but potentially significant, difference between the Uniform Arbitration Act as adopted by most states and the Federal Arbitration Act.

The case is Provectus Biopharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Culpepper, No. M2019-00662-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. App., Nashville, April 14, 2020).

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