Error in arbitrator appointment = vacated award

BWIFLAGSeveral insurance-related businesses had a dispute. The businesses were not all parties to all relevant agreements, leading to confusion about whether arbitration should proceed with the AAA or ICC, and about how to select an arbitrator. The district court found that the arbitrator was not appointed correctly, vacated the award, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed: “Arbitration is simply a matter of contract between the parties; it is a way to resolve those disputes — but only those disputes — that the parties have agreed to submit to arbitration.”  Poolre Ins. Corp. v. Organizational Strategies, Inc., No. 14-20433 (April 7, 2015).   Interestingly, the relevant contract required arbitrator selection “by the Anguilla, [British West Indies] Director of Insurance” — a nonexistent position.  This error did not moot that provision, however, but simply implicated the section 5 of the FAA, which lets a district judge appoint an arbitrator if “a lapse in the naming of an arbitrator” arises.

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