Abco Builders v. Progressive Plumbing

Decision Date13 July 2007
Docket NumberNo. S07G0257.,S07G0257.
Citation282 Ga. 308,647 S.E.2d 574
PartiesABCO BUILDERS, INC. v. PROGRESSIVE PLUMBING, INC.
CourtGeorgia Supreme Court

Jeffrey L. Evans, Jeffrey L. Evans, LLC, Atlanta, for appellant.

John C. McManus, Michael Lane Solis, George W. Warlick, McManus & Graham, LLP, Atlanta, Michael Curtis Pruett, Hall, Booth & Slover, P.C., Athens, for appellee.

MELTON, Justice.

In Progressive Plumbing, Inc. v. ABCO Builders, Inc., 281 Ga.App. 696, 637 S.E.2d 92 (2006), the Court of Appeals reversed the ruling of a superior court that, because an arbitration panel had shown a manifest disregard for the law, the arbitration award in favor of Progressive Plumbing, Inc. had to be vacated. We granted certiorari to consider the extent to which a superior court has authority to vacate an arbitrator's award in the absence of a transcript of the underlying arbitration hearing. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Because our state arbitration code closely tracks federal arbitration law, we look to federal cases for guidance in construing our own statutes. Progressive Data Systems, Inc. v. Jefferson Randolph Corporation, 275 Ga. 420, 568 S.E.2d 474 (2002). Our arbitration code was designed to preserve and ensure the efficacy and expediency of arbitration awards. As a result, judicial review of an arbitration award is strictly limited to five statutory grounds set forth in OCGA § 9-9-13(b). Id. See also, Malice v. Coloplast Corp., 278 Ga.App. 395, 629 S.E.2d 95 (2006). An appellate court will not consider the sufficiency of the evidence underlying an arbitrator's award. Greene v. Hundley, 266 Ga. 592(3), 468 S.E.2d 350 (1996).

At issue in this case is the fifth ground for review of an arbitrator's award, OCGA § 9-9-13(b)(5). This ground provides that an arbitrator's award may be vacated if it can be shown that the arbitrator manifestly disregarded the proper law applicable to the case before him. This disregard must be both evident and intentional. "An arbitration board that incorrectly interprets the law has not manifestly disregarded it. It has simply made a legal mistake. To manifestly disregard the law, one must be conscious of the law and deliberately ignore it." Montes v. Shearson Lehman Brothers, Inc., 128 F.3d 1456, 1461 (11th Cir.1997).

Therefore, to prove that a manifest disregard of the law has occurred, a party wishing to have an arbitration award vacated must provide evidence of record that, not only was the correct law communicated to an arbitrator, but that the arbitrator intentionally and knowingly chose to ignore that law despite the fact that it was correct. As exemplified by Montes, supra, this showing is an extremely difficult one to make, especially in light of the fact that an arbitrator is not required to make findings of fact or state his or her rationale in reaching decisions. See OCGA § 9-9-10. In Montes, a finding of manifest disregard occurred only because the arbitration award itself made an explicit recital of the winning party's argument that the correct law should be ignored rather than followed. In that case, proof of a manifest disregard of the law was blatantly evident on the face of the award.

In any other case, similarly clear evidence of the arbitrator's intent to purposefully disregard the law is required. That is, there must be concrete evidence of this intent either in the findings of the arbitrator, if he or she chooses to make such findings, or in the transcript of the arbitration hearing, if the parties choose to have the hearing...

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41 cases
  • Stubbs v. Hall
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • March 13, 2020
    ...Georgia's Civil Practice Act discovery provisions conform very closely to the federal ones); ABCO Builders, Inc. v. Progressive Plumbing, Inc. , 282 Ga. 308, 309, 647 S.E.2d 574 (2007) ("Because our state arbitration code closely tracks federal arbitration law, we look to federal cases for ......
  • Wells v. Wells-Wilson
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • June 30, 2021
    ...Code "was designed to preserve and ensure the efficacy and expediency of arbitration awards." ABCO Builders v. Progressive Plumbing , 282 Ga. 308, 309, 647 S.E.2d 574 (2007). Except for certain exceptions not applicable here, it applies to "all disputes in which the parties thereto have agr......
  • Deleon-Alvarez v. Palacios-Baras
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • March 28, 2014
  • King v. King
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • February 27, 2020
    ...of the law.These five statutory bases are the exclusive grounds for vacating an arbitration award. ABCO Builders v. Progressive Plumbing , 282 Ga. 308, 309, 647 S.E.2d 574 (2007). Furthermore, in addition to showing one of the five listed statutory grounds, a party seeking vacatur under OCG......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Comprehensive Arbitration of Domestic Relations Cases in Georgia
    • United States
    • State Bar of Georgia Georgia Bar Journal No. 14-1, August 2008
    • Invalid date
    ...1. [30] See O.C.G.A. § 9-9-13(b) (2007). This statute has been strictly construed. See ABCO Builders, Inc. v. Progressive Plumbing, Inc., 282 Ga. 308, 309, 647 S.E.2d 574, 575 (2007) (elaborating the "manifest disregard of the law" standard). [31] O.C.G.A. § 9-9-14(b) (2007). If a party bel......

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