Owens, a terminated CEO, engaged in a AAA arbitration with his former company before a three-member panel. In the course of the proceeding, the company sought to remove an arbitrator for making an incomplete disclosure regarding conflicts of interest. The AAA removed the conflicted arbitrator without holding a hearing or consulting the panel, and the remaining two arbitrators ultimately awarded Owens $3 million. The company then successfully moved for dismissal of the award in the district court. Following dismissal, Owens sued the AAA for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and tortious interference, but his claims were dismissed by the court based on arbitral immunity. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit affirmed, explaining that the reason courts extend immunity to arbitrators is to protect them and the arbitration process from undue influence and attacks from dissatisfied litigants. The Court concluded that “the removal of arbitrators is similarly protected by arbitral immunity because it is just as much a part of the arbitration process as the appointment of arbitrators.”
Owens v. American Arbitration Association, Inc., Case No. 16-1055 (8th Cir. Nov. 18, 2016).