Plaintiffs used a hay treatment product manufactured and sold by Cargill, Inc. A dispute arose between them concerning whether Cargill’s product caused serious injury to one of the plaintiffs. After protracted litigation concerning the arbitrability of the dispute, it was referred to arbitration before the National Grain and Feed Association (“NGFA”). The panel found in Cargill’s favor and plaintiffs appealed under the NGFA Arbitration Rules, challenging the arbitrators’ qualifications, evidentiary rulings, and other aspects of their decisionmaking. The NGFA Appeals Committee affirmed the decision and award issued by the original panel.
Plaintiffs brought an action to vacate the award. In support of its application, plaintiffs argued, among other things, that the arbitrators were biased in Cargill’s favor, that the arbitrators were not qualified to hear the dispute, that the structure of the NGFA arbitral process was flawed, and that both panels’ decisions were erroneous as a matter of law. The court denied plaintiff’s motion to vacate and granted Cargill’s cross-motion to confirm because: (a) plaintiffs had waived their right to challenge the arbitrators’ qualifications or the NGFA process by not raising these issues until after the proceedings; (b) Cargill’s involvement in NGFA’s annual convention, as well as the amount of membership dues it paid to the NGFA, did not evidence bias; (c) the panels’ failure to issue their decisions within the time period referenced by certain NGFA Arbitration Rules did not warrant vacatur, particularly since certain delays were attributable to plaintiffs; and (d) the panels’ evidentiary and legal rulings did not amount to manifest disregard of the law, as such rulings did not ignore binding precedent. Van Buren v. Cargill, Inc., No. 1:10-cv-00701 (USDC W.D.N.Y. Jan. 19, 2016).