The background of this case is as follows. CM South East Texas Houston LLC and South East Texas KCH Co. LLC (collectively, “CM South”) asserted breach of contract claims against CareMinders Home Care Inc. (“CareMinders”) and demanded arbitration. After months of initial proceedings, a five day hearing was scheduled for December 2014. A scheduling conflict arose and both sides requested new hearing dates, and the hearing was rescheduled for February 2015. Yet another conflict arose, and both sides requested a new date, and this time the hearing was rescheduled for March 9-13, 2015. One of CareMinders’ key witnesses then had a family emergency. CareMinders asked the arbitrator to reschedule the hearing for some time between May and September, 2015, advising that CM South agreed to the rescheduling. After conferring with the parties and discussing available dates, the arbitrator rescheduled the hearing to March 18-21, 2015, reducing it from five to four days. The hearing took place and CareMinders’ witness attended the hearing. The arbitrator then issued an award in favor of plaintiff CM South, awarding it damages. CM South filed a motion to confirm the award in Georgia federal court, and CareMinders filed a motion to vacate the award, contending that the arbitrator engaged in misconduct by refusing to postpone the hearing when both parties agreed to the rescheduling. The district court denied the motion to vacate, finding that CareMinders failed to show that the arbitrator’s refusal to postpone the hearing amounted to misconduct or that it prejudiced CareMinders’ ability to defend the case. The court also confirmed the arbitration award, which CareMinders appealed.
The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Georgia district court’s order confirming the arbitration award. In doing so, the Court held that an arbitrator’s refusal to postpone a hearing after it had been already rescheduled twice does not warrant vacatur of the award under the Federal Arbitration Act. The Court also noted that CareMinders’ witness attended and provided testimony at the hearing. As such, the Court further ruled that the parties were not prejudiced or deprived of a fair hearing and vacatur was not warranted.
CM South East Texas Houston v. CareMinders Home Care Inc., No. 16-11054 (11th Cir. Oct. 7, 2016).