Disputes Over Arbitrator Qualifications: The Northern District of California Offers Some Guidance

Red rules binder

The court provided answers on whether a particular candidate is qualified, whether a challenge to an arbitrator’s qualifications can be addressed pre-award and whether a party that names an unqualified arbitrator should lose the opportunity to name a replacement.

August 10, 2021
Justin K. Fortescue - White and Williams

The selection of an arbitration panel can often lead to disputes between the parties regarding things like whether a particular candidate is qualified, whether a challenge to an arbitrator’s qualifications can be addressed pre-award and whether a party that names an unqualified arbitrator should lose the opportunity to name a replacement. In Public Risk Innovations v. Amtrust Financial Services, No. 21-cv-03573, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 129464 (N.D. Ca. July 12, 2021), the court provided answers on all three of these issues.

In Amtrust, the parties filed cross-motions to compel arbitration. Although both parties agreed the dispute was arbitrable, they disagreed about whether Public Risk Innovations, Solutions and Management’s (PRISM) arbitrator was qualified under the terms of the applicable contract. In seeking to have PRISM’s arbitrator disqualified, Amtrust argued that he: (1) was not a “current or former official of an insurance or reinsurance company”; and (2) was not “disinterested.” Amtrust also argued that because PRISM named an unqualified arbitrator (and presumably the time to appoint had passed), PRISM should be deemed to have failed to select an arbitrator as required by the contract and that Amtrust had the right to select a second arbitrator of its choice.

Mr. Fortescue may be contacted at fortescuej@whiteandwilliams.com



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