No showing that arbitration award should be vacated

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 22, 2021

No showing that arbitration award should be vacated

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//November 22, 2021

Where an arbitrator ruled against a man’s Title VII, breach of contract and quantum meruit claims, and the plaintiff did not show how the award failed to draw its essence from the contract or exhibited a manifest disregard for the law, it was confirmed.


In the amended complaint, Jeffrey Smiley attempts to “appeal” the arbitration award issued by Anne G. Bibeau under section 16.2 of the Federal Arbitration Act, or FAA. This statute, however, does not give plaintiff the authority to “appeal” an arbitration award in a federal district court. The court will construe plaintiff’s amended complaint as an application to vacate the arbitration award. Defendant, in turn, has moved to confirm the award.

Motion to vacate

Plaintiff does not allege the award was procured by corruption, fraud or undue means. Nor does plaintiff, beyond a thread-bare assertion, allege that the arbitrator was partial to one party or corrupt. Plaintiff’s allegation that the arbitrator failed to consider the facts and filings that plaintiff submitted may fit under FAA § 10(a)(3). But this allegation simply does not comport with the evidence before the court. Plaintiff also does not present any evidence supporting his allegation that the arbitrator made decisions on matters not presented to her.

The rest of plaintiff’s reasons effectively challenge the arbitrator’s factual findings and legal conclusions. FAA § 10 clearly does not give this court the authority to review the arbitrator’s decision de novo. However, if the arbitrator so misinterpreted the facts or misapplied the law as to “exceed [her] powers,” the award could be vacated. This is a “heavy burden” and will only be met in “‘very unusual circumstances.”

Plaintiff does not identify any part of the award that “fails to draw its essence from the contract” or exhibits a “manifest disregard for the law.” Plaintiff claimed that defendant discriminated against him in violation of Title VII, breached his contract or alternatively owed him damages under the doctrine of quantum meruit.

The arbitrator issued a nine-page document detailing her factual findings and legal conclusions for denying all of plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff’s application attempts to relitigate these issues but does not point to any part of the award that manifestly disregards the law or goes beyond the essence of the contractual relationship between plaintiff and defendant.

Therefore, there being no reason to vacate the award, the court will deny plaintiff’s application.

Motion to confirm

FAA § 9 allows a party to an arbitration, within one year of an award, to apply “to the United States court in and for the district within which such award was made” for “an order confirming the award.” The motion was made within the past year and within the Eastern District of Virginia. Because the award should not be vacated under § 10 of the FAA, and neither party moved to modify or correct it under § 11 of the FAA, the court will grant defendant’s motion to confirm the arbitration award.

Plaintiff’s motion to vacate arbitration award denied. Defendant’s motion to confirm arbitration award granted.

Smiley v. Forcepoint Federal LLC, Case No. 3:21-cv-500, Nov. 3, 2021. EDVA at Richmond (Hudson). VLW 021-3-508. 7 pp.

VLW 021-3-508


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