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Civil Procedure: Arbitration Award is Not a Judgment

Posted by Ted A. Schmidt | Jun 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

Phillips v. Garcia, 714 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 13 (App. Div. I, June 9, 2015) (J. Gemmill)

ARBITRATION AWARD IS NOT AN APPEALABLE  “JUDGMENT”

Plaintiff sued defendant for breach of contract and bad faith. The trial court assigned the case for compulsory arbitration and plaintiff obtained an award from the arbitrator then submitted a “Judgment” to the arbitrator which the arbitrator signed awarding plaintiff $11,967 in damages and $8,687 in attorneys' fees. This “Judgment,” and nothing else regarding the arbitration award, was filed with the court. Ten months later when plaintiff attempted to schedule a debtor's exam the defendant moved to dismiss the arbitration award “Judgment” because no application for entry of judgment was filed within 120 days of the arbitration award. This motion was denied by the trial court and the defendant appealed. The Arizona Court of Appeals found it did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter as a straight appeal but exercised its discretion to decide the matter as a Special Action granting the motion to dismiss without prejudice.

Rule 76(a) provides that in compulsory arbitration the arbitrator after hearing is to file a “Notice of Decision” which a party may then convert to an “Arbitration Award” which is to be filed with the court. However, neither a Notice of Decision nor an Arbitration Award is  a judgment—“judgments shall be in writing and signed by a judge or a court commissioner.” Ariz.R. Civ. P. 58(a). Rule 76 and 58 allow a party to convert the award into a judgment by submitting a form of judgment to the court with the award and requesting the court sign and enter the judgment. “If no application for entry of judgment has been filed within 120 days from the date of the filing of the notice of decision, and not appeal is pending, the case shall be dismissed.” Rule 76(d). Here plaintiff's failure to file an application for entry of judgment required dismissal of action without prejudice.

About the Author

Ted A. Schmidt

Ted's early career as a trial attorney began on the other side of the fence, in the offices of a major insurance defense firm. It was there that Ted acquired the experience, the skills and the special insight into defense strategy that have served him so well in the field of personal injury law. Notable among his successful verdicts was the landmark Sparks vs. Republic National Life Insurance Company case, a $4.5 million award to Ted's client. To this day, it is the defining case for insurance bad faith, and yet it is only one of several other multi-million dollar jury judgments won by Ted during his career. He is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a specialist in "wrongful death and bodily injury litigation".

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