Thomas Kinkade Company’s suit against Nancy and David White was submitted to an arbitration proceeding in which, as the Sixth Circuit noted, “the coincidences all break one way.” During the five-year arbitration, the arbitrator, Mark Kowalsky, defied his role as neutral intermediary in various ways. For example, Kowalsky provided the Whites multiple opportunities to bolster the proofs of their claims. Kowalsky allowed the Whites to submit as evidence 8,800 documents they had deliberately withheld from Kinkade for four years. On a straightforward breach-of-contract claim that went virtually uncontested throughout arbitration, he denied Kinkade any relief. When Kinkade raised objections to Kowalsky’s decisions as an arbitrator, Kowalsky gave no response. Kowalsky additionally awarded the Whites attorney’s fees of nearly $500,000 after the arbitration panel unequivocally denied those fees in the Interim Award. Finally, during arbitration, the Whites and their appointed arbitrator both retained Kowalsky’s law firm in unrelated matters, and Kowalsky made no effort to avoid receiving compensation for such matters. Kinkaid sought to disqualify Kowalsky to no avail. Both the AAA and Kowalsky denied disqualification requests. The arbitration panel entered a Final Award in favor of the Whites in an amount in excess of $1.4 million. The district court granted Kinkade’s motion to vacate due to the arbitrator’s partiality, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. , No. 10-1634 (6th Cir. April 2, 2013).
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