THI OF NEW MEXICO AT VIDA ENCANTADA, LLC, Plaintiff - Appellant,
MARY LOUISE LOVATO, as personal representative for the wrongful death estate of Guadalupe Duran, deceased, Defendant-Appellee.
from the United States District Court for the District of New
Mexico (D.C. No. 1:11-CV-00634-MV-KK)
D. Proctor, Cooper & Scully, P.C., Houston, Texas, for
Jennifer J. Foote (Dusti D. Harvey with her on the brief),
Harvey and Foote Law Firm, LLC, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for
HOLMES, PHILLIPS, and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.
PHILLIPS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), we may vacate an
arbitrator's decision "only in very unusual
circumstances." Oxford Health Plans LLC v.
Sutter, 133 S.Ct. 2064, 2068 (2013) (quoting First
Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938, 942
(1995)). "That limited judicial review . . .
'maintain[s] arbitration's essential virtue of
resolving disputes straightaway.'" Id.
(alteration in original) (quoting Hall Street Assocs.,
L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 588 (2008)).
Section 10(a) of the FAA delineates the four "very
unusual circumstances" for vacating arbitration awards.
Oxford Health Plans LLC, 133 S.Ct. at 2068;
see 9 U.S.C. § 10(a). Here, we consider whether
an arbitrator exceeded his authority under § 10(a)(4)
and whether he manifestly disregarded the law in awarding
certain costs and fees to the prevailing party. Under our
restrictive standard of review, we conclude that the
arbitrator did not exceed his authority or manifestly
disregard the law. So we affirm.
Standard of Review
assessing the district court's confirmation of the
arbitration award, "we review legal questions de novo
and factual findings for clear error." CEEG
(Shanghai) Solar Sci. & Tech. Co. v. LUMOS LLC, 829
F.3d 1201, 1205 (10th Cir. 2016). "An error is clear
'if the district court's findings lack factual
support in the record or if, after reviewing all the
evidence, we have a definite and firm conviction that the
district court erred.'" Id. at 1205-06
(quoting Middleton v. Stephenson, 749 F.3d 1197,
1201 (10th Cir. 2014)).
"[w]e do not owe deference to the district court's
legal conclusions, " we "afford maximum deference
to the arbitrators' decisions." Id. at 1206
(emphasis omitted). Our task is to assess whether the
district court correctly followed the restrictive standard
that governs judicial review of an arbitrator's award:
"[W]e must give extreme deference to the
determination of the [arbitrator] for the standard of review
of arbitral awards is among the narrowest known to
law." ARW Exploration Corp. v. Aguirre, 45
F.3d 1455, 1462 (10th Cir. 1995) . . . . "By agreeing to
arbitrate, a party trades the procedures and opportunity for
review of the courtroom for the simplicity, informality, and
expedition of arbitration." Gilmer v.
Interstate/Johnson Lane Corp., 500 U.S. 20, 31, 111
S.Ct. 1647, 114 L.Ed.2d 26 (1991).
Brown v. Coleman Co., 220 F.3d 1180, 1182 (10th Cir.
2000) (emphasis added). So our review is extremely limited.
Dominion Video Satellite, Inc. v. Echostar Satellite
L.L.C., 430 F.3d 1269, 1275 (10th Cir. 2005). In
addition, we have emphasized that a court should exercise
"great caution" when a party asks for an
arbitration award to be set aside. Ormsbee Dev. Co. v.
Grace, 668 F.2d 1140, 1147 (10th Cir. 1982).
Supreme Court has emphasized that "only . . .
extraordinary circumstances" warrant vacatur of an
arbitral award. San Juan Coal Co. v. Int'l
Union of Operating Eng'rs, Local 953, 672 F.3d
1198, 1201 (10th Cir. 2012) (citing Major League Baseball
Players Ass'n v. Garvey, 532 U.S. 504, 509 (2001)
(per curiam)).The Court has also said that if "the
arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the
contract and acting within the scope of his authority, that a
court is convinced he committed serious error does not
suffice to overturn his decision." United
Paperworkers Int'l Union, AFL-CIO v. Misco, Inc.,
484 U.S. 29, 38 (1987); Oxford Health Plans LLC, 133
S.Ct. at 2068 (describing "the sole question" for
courts as "whether the arbitrator (even arguably)
interpreted the parties' contract, not whether he got its
meaning right or wrong"). Even so, "[t]he
arbitrator may not ignore the plain language of the
contract." Misco, 484 U.S. at 38.
practice, courts "are 'not authorized to reconsider
the merits of an award even though the parties may allege
that the award rests on errors of fact or on
misinterpretation of the contract.'" CEEG,
829 F.3d at 1206 (quoting Misco, 484 U.S. at 36);
see also ARW Expl. Corp., 45 F.3d at 1463
("Even erroneous interpretations or applications of law
will not be disturbed."). "The arbitrator's