Carlton Fields

The petitioner unsuccessfully sought to vacate an arbitration award permitting Uber’s use of a “surge” pricing algorithm to set fares, arguing that comments made by the arbitrator reflected his “evident partiality” toward Uber in violation of 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(2). Specifically, on the third day of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator offered concluding remarks on the record including the statement: “I must say I act out of fear. My fear is if I ruled Uber illegal, I would need security. I wouldn’t be able to walk the streets at night. People would be after me.” The petitioner also argued the arbitrator was “starstruck” by the presence of Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder and then CEO, taking his picture on the first day of the hearing.

Uber first argued that the petitioner waived his right to seek vacatur by waiting until after the arbitrator ruled against him. The court agreed, as attacks on the qualifications of arbitrators on grounds previously known but not raised until after an award has been rendered are precluded. The petitioner’s claim that vacatur of an “openly partial award” is not waivable was “belied by Second Circuit precedent.” The court also agreed with Uber’s second argument, that the arbitrator’s conduct did not justify vacatur, finding the arbitrators remarks “were simply an attempt at humor – one of many made by the arbitrator throughout the hearing.”

Meyer v. Kalanick & Uber Technologies, Inc., No. 1:15-cv-09796 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 3, 2020).