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Court Holds True To Prescribed Time Period To Vacate An Arbitration Award

Chase v. Nordstrom, Inc., Mo.CCB-10-2144 (D.Md. Nov. 17, 2010) | View pdf

Plaintiff Shannon Chase ("Ms. Chase") began employment, as a salesperson, at Nordstrom's Columbia, Maryland store in April 2006. On August 7, 2007, Ms. Chase submitted a request for Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave following a knee injury she sustained at home. She was approved for a leave of absence under the FMLA from August 8, 2007 through October 23, 2007. At the expiration of her approved leave of absence, Ms. Chase neither requested additional leave, nor returned to work. After attempting to contact Ms. Chase on two separate occasions, Nordstrom terminated her employment on January 7, 2008.

One year later, Ms. Chase submitted a demand for arbitration to the American Arbitration Association ("AAA") pursuant to Nordstrom's dispute resolution program, alleging a violation of the FMLA. Following the completion of discovery, Nordstrom moved for summary judgment pursuant to its dispute resolution program. The arbitrator granted Nordstrom's motion by Order dated April 28, 2010. The AAA sent the Order to the parties by e-mail on April 30, 2010.

On July 30, 2010, Ms. Chase filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award, arguing that the arbitrator's conduct demonstrated "evident partiality." She also complained that the arbitrator issued summary judgment rather than hearing evidence. Nordstrom received the Plaintiff's Complaint on August 31, 2010, and opposed it.

The Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") requires a party moving to vacate an arbitration award to serve the opposing party with notice of the motion within three months after the award is filed or delivered. A motion to vacate filed or served after this three-month period is time barred. Here, the arbitration award was issued on April 28, 2010. The AAA transmitted the Order to both parties on April 30, 2010. Ms. Chase filed the pending motion to vacate the arbitration award on July 30, 2010 (i.e., the last day of the three-month period prescribed by the FAA). Notice was served upon Nordstrom, one month later, on August 31, 2010. Thus, while Ms. Chase filed her Complaint within the three-month period, she failed to give notice to Nordstrom within the prescribed limitation as required by the FAA.

The Court found that Ms. Chase was not entitled to an exception to the time limitation set forth in the FAA for good faith or due diligence because she filed her Complaint within the three-month period, but was unable to achieve service of process. The Fourth Circuit has not yet recognized equitable exceptions to the FAA's three-month deadline for serving a motion to vacate upon an adverse party. Even if the Fourth Circuit did recognize equitable exceptions, there is no evidence that Ms. Chase acted with good faith or due diligence. She waited until the very last day within the prescribed time period to file her Complaint, leaving no time for her to serve notice upon Nordstrom through her own means or for the Court to assist her with service of process. Accordingly, Ms. Chase's motion to vacate the arbitration award was denied as untimely.


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