Mays v. Lanier Worldwide, Inc., CIV.A. 97-D-1451-N.

Decision Date27 September 2000
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A. 97-D-1451-N.,CIV.A. 97-D-1451-N.
Citation115 F.Supp.2d 1330
PartiesRon MAYS, Plaintiff, v. LANIER WORLDWIDE, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Alabama

Julian L. McPhillips, Jr., Karen Sampson Rodgers, McPhillips, Shinbaum & Gill, Montgomery, AL, for plaintiff. represented by Rodgers.

William D. Coleman, Capell & Howard, PC, Montgomery, AL, Raymond L. Jackson, Jr., Auburn, AL, Daniel M. Shea, Atlanta, GA, Jay Daniel St. Clair, Bradley, Arant, Rose & White, LLP, Birmingham, AL, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DE MENT, District Judge.

Before the court is Plaintiff Ron May's ("Plaintiff") Motion To Vacate The Arbitration Award Or, In The Alternative, Motion For De Novo Review (Doc. No. 2) ("Pl.'s Mot. To Vacate"), filed September 30, 1997. Also before the court is Defendants Lanier Worldwide, Inc. ("Lanier"), Peter Brandsma ("Brandsma") and Don Deweese's ("Deweese") (collectively "Defendants") Cross-Motion For Summary Judgment And Motion To Confirm Arbitration Award (Doc. No. 15) ("Defs.' Mot."), filed November 19, 1997. The Parties have filed briefs, supplemental briefs and evidentiary submissions in support of and in opposition to their respective Motions,1 and the court has carefully considered the arguments of counsel, the relevant law, and the record as a whole. For the reasons stated herein, the court finds that Plaintiff has waived his right to object to the jurisdiction of the arbitrator to hear Plaintiff's dispute and that Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate that the arbitrator's award should be vacated on any of the statutory grounds provided in the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 10(a), or on any of the non-statutory grounds carved out by case law. Accordingly, the court finds that Plaintiff's Motion To Vacate is due to be denied and that Defendants' Cross-Motion For Summary Judgment And Motion To Confirm Arbitration Award are due to be GRANTED.

I. STANDARDS OF REVIEW
A. The Standard for Reviewing an Arbitration Award

The court's review of an arbitrator's decision is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"). See 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16. "Judicial review of arbitration awards under the FAA is very limited." Brown v. Rauscher Pierce Refsnes, Inc., 994 F.2d 775, 778 (11th Cir.1993). By statute, the court may vacate an arbitration award only on four grounds. See 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(1)-(5). Those grounds are as follows:

(1) Where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means.

(2) Where there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators, or either of them.

(3) Where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing, upon sufficient cause shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy; or of any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced.

(4) Where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made.

In addition to these four statutory grounds, case law has carved out three limited non-statutory bases for vacatur. These three bases are as follows: (1) the arbitration award is arbitrary and capricious; (2) enforcement of the arbitration award violates public policy; and (3) the arbitration award evinces a "manifest disregard for the law." See Montes v. Shearson Lehman Bros., Inc., 128 F.3d 1456, 1458-62 (11th Cir.1997); see also Scott v. Prudential Sec., Inc., 141 F.3d 1007, 1017 (11th Cir.1998). The party challenging the arbitration award "bears the burden of setting forth sufficient grounds to vacate the arbitration award." Scott, 141 F.3d at 1014.

The FAA "expresses a presumption that arbitration awards will be confirmed." Booth v. Hume Publ'g, Inc., 902 F.2d 925, 932 (11th Cir.1990). Thus, the burden on the party seeking to vacate an arbitration award is very heavy. See O.R. Sec., Inc. v. Professional Planning Assoc., 857 F.2d 742, 748 (11th Cir.1988); see also Amicizia Societa Navegazione v. Chilean Nitrate and Iodine Sales Corp., 274 F.2d 805, 808 (2d Cir.1960) ("[T]he court's function in confirming or vacating an arbitration award is severely limited. If it were otherwise, the ostensible purpose for resort to arbitration, i.e., avoidance of litigation, would be frustrated."). Additionally, "the district court need not conduct a full hearing on a motion to vacate or confirm; such motions may be decided on the papers without oral testimony."2 Booth, 902 F.2d at 932.

B. Standard for Reviewing a Motion for Summary Judgment

On a motion for summary judgment, the court is to construe the evidence and factual inferences arising therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970). Summary judgment can be entered on a claim only if it is shown "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). As the Supreme Court has explained the summary judgment standard:

[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In such a situation, there can be no `genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.

Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)).

The trial court's function at this juncture is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (citations omitted). A dispute about a material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505; see also Barfield v. Brierton, 883 F.2d 923, 933 (11th Cir.1989).

The party seeking summary judgment has the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for the motion and of establishing, based on relevant "portions of `the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,'" that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). The mechanics of satisfying the initial burden vary, however, depending upon which party, the movant or the nonmovant, bears the burden of proof at trial. See Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir.1993) (detailing the nature of the parties' responsibilities when preparing or defending against a motion for summary judgment).

Once this initial demonstration under Rule 56(c) is made, the burden of production, not persuasion, shifts to the nonmoving party. The nonmoving party must "go beyond the pleadings and by [his or] her own affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)). In meeting this burden, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Corp. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). That party must demonstrate that there is a "genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see also Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505. An action is void of a material issue for trial "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTS

Plaintiff, a black male, was employed by Lanier from April 19, 1994, to June 25, 1996. (Doc. No. 44 at 3, 4-5.) Lanier hired Plaintiff to work as a facsimile and copier machine sales representative in Lanier's Montgomery, Alabama, sales' office. (Doc. No. 15, at 2.)

When Plaintiff began his employment with Lanier, Plaintiff signed an Employment Agreement, which contained an arbitration clause. (Doc. No. 15, Defs.' Ex. 1.3) The typed three-page Employment Agreement sets forth twelve sections. (Id.) The arbitration clause is embodied in Section 8 and reads as follows:

If a dispute arises out of or relates to this Agreement or the breach, termination, or validity thereof, or the compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline, discharge or terms and conditions of employment of the Employee, and if said dispute cannot be settled through direct discussion, the parties agree to settle the dispute by binding arbitration in accordance with the Employment Dispute Resolution Rules of the American Arbitration Association in effect on the date of this Agreement, and judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered by any court having jurisdiction thereof; provided, however, that this Section shall not apply to claims or disputes involving the breach or alleged breach by Employee of any obligation set forth in Section 5 of this Agreement. Disputes involving the unauthorized use or disclosure of Trade Secrets or Confidential Information, or involving or concerning unfair competition or the non-compete provisions of this Agreement, shall be settled by any court having jurisdiction thereof and shall...

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