Court Confirms Arbitration Award Under FAA’s Strong Presumption in Favor of Such Awards
This case arises from a dispute over the parties’ obligations under several oil and gas leases. The parties engaged in an arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement. The arbitration panel entered awards in favor of defendants Alan Larson and others. Northeast Natural Energy LLC filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Under the Federal Arbitration Act, there is a strong presumption in favor of an arbitration award and a court must grant an order confirming an arbitration award, except in few enumerated instances. One ground for vacating an award includes “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.” The court may also vacate an arbitration award when the arbitrators displayed a “manifest disregard” of the law. This means there must be “absolutely no support at all in the record justifying the arbitrator’s determinations.”
The court denied Northeast Energy’s motion to vacate the arbitration award and held that the panel did not exceed its powers and did not manifestly disregard the law. The court explained that there was nothing in the record to support that the panel exceeded its powers by rewriting the leases and failing to interpret the leases as written. The court further explained that the panel did not remove a provision from the leases, and the record supported the panel’s interpretation. The court found that the panel’s application of the parol evidence rule was not “completely irrational” as it cited appropriate legal authority and did not misapply Pennsylvania law. Lastly, the court held that the panel did not manifestly disregard the law in making awards to non-testifying defendants because the record revealed that the panel had sufficient information to make such findings.
Ne. Natural Energy LLC v. Larson, No. 3:18-cv-00240 (W.D. Penn. Sept. 20, 2019).