Gaer Bros., Inc. v. Mott

Decision Date12 March 1957
Citation144 Conn. 303,130 A.2d 804
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court
Parties, 65 A.L.R.2d 749 GAER BROTHERS, Inc., et al. v. Joseph P. MOTT et al. Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut

Harry L. Nair, Hartford, for appellant (named plaintiff).

Jacob Bresnerkoff, Hartford, for appellees (defendants Mott).


BALDWIN, Associate Judge.

This is an appeal by the named plaintiff from a judgment rendered upon the failure to plead further after demurrers to the complaint were sustained.

The complaint alleged the following: The plaintiff Meyer Gaer is an officer of the plaintiff Gaer Brothers, Inc., a corporation engaged in the wholesale grocery business. The defendants Joseph P. Mott and Esther M. Mott operate several supermarkets through one or more corporations owned or controlled by them. The defendants Julius Apter and Milton Nahum are attorneys at law practicing their profession in Hartford. On April 23, 1953, Gaer Brothers entered into a written agreement for the sale to the Motts of such of the commodities handled by Gaer Brothers as the Motts ordered. The latter agreed to pay for the commodities according to a price formula. The agreement contained the following provision relating to the arbitration of any disputes between the parties. 'In the event of a dispute on any matter pertaining to this Agreement, which cannot be settled amicably by the parties themselves, same shall be submitted for arbitration to Attorneys Julius Apter and Milton Nahum. A unanimous decision in writing signed by said Attorneys shall be binding upon both parties hereto.' On or about January 1, 1954, Gaer Brothers began to deliver merchandise pursuant to the agreement. A dispute having arisen, the Motts by their attorney, on October 10, 1955, invoked arbitration proceedings under the agreement, and on October 12 Apter and Nahum fixed a day for a hearing which was continued from time to time until March 20, 1956. On that date, Gaer Brothers and the Motts appeared by their attorneys before the arbitrators. Gaer Brothers then objected to the arbitration of any dispute by Apter and Nahum on the ground that they were partial to the Motts and were not qualified to act as arbitrators. Notwithstanding the objection, the arbitrators refused to disqualify themselves. Counsel for the Motts caused to be issued subpoenas duces tecum commanding the plaintiffs to appear before the arbitrators and produce a variety of documents, in excess of 250,000 in number. The direction to produce these documents is 'burdensome, oppressive and wholly without justification,' and the subpoenas were issued 'for the purpose of harassing the plaintiffs.' Despite objection to the subpoenas by the plaintiffs, the arbitrators ordered full compliance with them.

The grounds claimed for the disqualification of the arbitrators will be related in detail later in this opinion.

The plaintiffs claimed an injunction restraining the defendants Apter and Nahum from acting as arbitrators, and all the defendants from enforcing the subpoenas; a judgment declaring the arbitrators disqualified; and orders appointing new arbitrators and quashing the subpoenas, together with such further relief as to equity might appertain.

The defendants Mott demurred to the complaint and to certain of the prayers for relief: as to the complaint, because it, in effect, was an application to remove arbitrators appointed under a written agreement, because it did not allege facts justifying the intervention of the court, and because there is an adequate remedy at law under § 8161 of the General Statutes; as to the prayers for relief, because the court is without power to grant the relief sought; as to both, because the same issues and facts were decided in Gaer Bros., Inc. v. Mott, Superior Court, Hartford County, No. 103925. The trial court sustained the demurrers and the named plaintiff has appealed.

This is a plenary action which seeks to invoke the equitable powers of the court. See Bisnovich v. British America Assurance Co., 100 Conn. 240, 250, 123 A. 339; Brown v. Green, 7 Conn. 536, 542; Sturges, Commercial Arbitrations & Awards, § 367. It is not an application to the Superior Court under General Statutes, § 8153 for the removal of an arbitrator, as in the case of Dewart v. Northeastern Gas Transmission Co., 140 Conn. 446, 101 A.2d 299, upon which the defendants Mott rely. The rule in that case does not control here. General Statutes, § 8151 provides that parties may enter into a written contract to arbitrate controversies between them, which contract shall be 'valid, irrevocable and enforceable, except when there shall exist sufficient cause at law or in equity for the avoidance of written contracts generally.' 1 Referring to the portion of the statute here quoted, we held in the Dewart case, supra, 140 Conn. 449, 101 A.2d 300, that an arbitration agreement, like any other, can be avoided for fraud, misrepresentation, duress or undue influence, among other reasons. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, etc., v. Shapiro, 138 Conn. 57, 63, 82 A.2d 345; Bray v. English, 1 Conn. 498, 501; 6 Williston, Contracts (Rev. Ed.) p. 5369.

The complaint in this action alleges the partiality and bias of the arbitrators for several reasons concerned with their relationships, professional and family, with the defendants Mott. The plaintiffs are not asking for such relief as the arbitration statutes afford. They have brought a plenary action seeking to invoke the complete equitable powers of the court. This court early expressed the view that arbitration, being designed to avoid litigation and secure prompt settlement of disputes, is favored by the law. Parmelee v. Allen, 32 Conn. 115, 116; Local 63, Textile Workers Union of America, C.I.O. v. Cheney Bros., 141 Conn. 606, 612, 109 A.2d 240, and cases cited. If parties are to be encouraged to use the arbitration process and forego litigation in the courts, they are entitled to have in arbitration proceedings the same degree of impartiality as the courts afford. Public policy requires, under circumstances such as are present in the instant case, that arbitrators not only be completely impartial but also have no connection with the parties, or the dispute involved, which might give the appearance of their being otherwise. We are aware of the decision of the New York Court of Appeals in Matter of Amtorg Trading Corporation (Camden Fibre Mills, Inc), 304 N.Y. 519, 109 N.E.2d 606. We do not believe it furnishes an applicable rule for the disposition of the case at bar. It does not appear from the complaint whether the plaintiffs, at the time the agreement was made, knew of the relationships of the arbitrators with the defendants Mott which the plaintiffs now charge disqualify the arbitrators, or, at least, the full nature and purport of those relationships. Until the facts are fully developed, it is...

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    • United States
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    • July 31, 1979
    ...632-633 (Sup.Ct.1917); McRae v. Superior Court, 221 Cal.App.2d 166, 170, 34 Cal.Rptr. 346, 349 (Dist.Ct.1963); Gaer Bros. Ins. v. Mott, 144 Conn. 303, 130 A.2d 804 (Sup.Ct.E.1957); First Nat. Bank v. Clay, 2 N.W.2d 85 (Iowa Sup.Ct.1942); Wilson v. Gregg, 208 Okl. 291, 255 P.2d 517 (Sup.Ct.1......
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    • May 15, 1979
    ...631, 632-633 (Sup.Ct.1917); McRae v. Superior Ct., 221 Cal.App.2d 166, 34 Cal.Rptr. 346, 349 (Dist.Ct.1963); Gaer Bros., Ins. v. Mott, 144 Conn. 303, 130 A.2d 804 (Sup.Ct.E.1957); First Nat. Bank v. Clay, 231 Iowa 703, 2 N.W.2d 85 (Sup.Ct.1942); Wilson v. Gregg, 208 Okl. 291, 255 P.2d 517 (......
  • Mbna America Bank, N.A. v. Boata
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 31, 2007 to assert common-law contract defenses to attack the validity of an agreement to arbitrate. See, e.g., Gaer Bros., Inc. v. Mott, 144 Conn. 303, 306-307, 130 A.2d 804 (1957). Furthermore, General Statutes § 52-408 provides in relevant part that a written arbitration agreement "shall be......
  • Bennett v. Meader
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • July 19, 1988
    ...contrast, this court has extended equity to remedy a dispute that was not within the purview of the statute. See Gaer Bros., Inc. v. Mott, 144 Conn. 303, 130 A.2d 804 (1957). Additionally, there are a multitude of references to the common law arbitration scheme that were made in the past te......
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