LABORERS' LOCAL UNION NOS. 472 & 172 et al v. GRIFFIN SIGN CO. INC.
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 6/11/2015. (dmr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
LABORERS’ LOCAL UNION NOS. 472
& 172, LABORERS’ LOCAL UNION
NOS. 472 & 172 WELFARE AND
PENSION FUNDS AND SAFETY,
EDUCATION AND TRAINING FUNDS,
and ZAZZALI, FAGELLA, NOWAK,
KLEINBAUM & FRIEDMAN, P.A.,
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Civil Action No.
GRIFFIN SIGN CO. INC.,
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
This matter comes before the Court by way of Petitioners
Laborers’ Local Union Nos. 472 & 172 and Zazzali, Fagella,
Nowak, Kleinbaum & Friedman, P.A.’s (hereinafter, “Petitioners”)
motion to confirm an arbitration award entered on October 30,
2014 as a result of Griffin Sign Co. Inc.’s (hereinafter,
“Respondent” or “Griffin”) failure to remit fringe benefit
contributions [see Docket Item 2]; and by way of Respondent’s
cross-motion to vacate the arbitration award on the grounds that
it received inadequate notice of the arbitration hearing date.
[See Docket Item 4.]
For the reasons that follow, Petitioners’ motion will be
granted, and Respondent’s cross-motion will be denied.
Court finds as follows:
In their Verified Petition, Petitioners generally
allege that Laborers Local Union No. 172 (hereinafter, “Union”)
and Griffin are parties to a collective bargaining agreement
(hereinafter, the “agreement”) that requires, in relevant part,
that Griffin remit certain fringe benefit contributions and that
it resolve any dispute regarding payment of these contributions
in arbitration. (See Pet’rs Reply at 1-2; see also O’Hare Cert.
at ¶ 2; Ex. A to Pet’rs Br. at ¶ 17.)
As a result of Griffin’s failure to remit
contributions for July and August 2014, Petitioners sent a
letter by certified mail, return-receipt requested and by
regular mail on October 16, 2014, advising Griffin that an
arbitration hearing would be held on October 30, 2014.1 (See Ex.
A to O’Hare Cert.)
Respondent thereafter acknowledged receipt
of the certified mailing (by signing the return receipt) (id.),
The letter further advised that, in the event Respondent failed
to appear, Petitioners would “request the arbitrator to proceed
with the hearing and to issue an Award based on the evidence
presented.” (Ex. A to O’Hare Cert.)
and the United States Postal Service never returned the regular
mail as undeliverable.2
(See O’Hare Cert. at ¶ 3.)
Despite these notices, however, Griffin “did not
respond to the correspondence, nor did it appear at the
arbitration hearing.” (O’Hare Cert. at ¶ 4.)
As a result,
Petitioner presented the matter to the arbitrator who issued an
award directing payment of delinquent contributions in the
amount of $152,122.64, plus interest, attorney’s fees, and
arbitration costs. (See id. at 2-3; see also Ex. B to Pet.)
Petitioners then mailed a copy of the arbitration award,
together with a demand for payment, to Griffin by certified
mail, return-receipt requested and by regular mail on October
30, 2014. (See Id. at 3.) Despite these additional mailings (see
Ex. B to O’Hare Cert.; O’Hare Cert. at ¶ 5), however, Griffin
did not respond to Petitioners’ correspondence, nor did it pay
the outstanding sums.
(See generally O’Hare Cert.)
Petitioners therefore filed the Verified Petition and
motion to confirm, followed by Respondent’s cross-motion to
[See Docket Items 1 & 2.]
In support of its motion, Respondent specifically
takes the position that it received “inadequate notice” of the
arbitration date, and therefore lacked an opportunity to be
Respondent does not, as stated below, dispute its receipt of
these mailings, nor its actual knowledge of the arbitration
heard. (Resp’t Opp’n at 2.)
As a result, Respondent requests
that the Award be vacated and that it be permitted to present
the matter anew to an arbitrator.
Petitioners, however, argue that the arbitration award
must be confirmed, because the adequacy of notice fails to
constitute a basis to vacate an arbitrator’s award under the
Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 10(a) (hereinafter, the
(See Pet’rs Reply at 3, 5-6.)
argue that Respondent received, in any event, notice of the
hearing two weeks prior to its scheduled date, and never
objected to the date, nor challenged the award after its
Review of an arbitration award is extremely limited
and conducted under a highly deferential standard.
Paperworkers Int’l Union v. Misco, Inc., 484 U.S. 29, 36 (1987).
Indeed, a court’s “role in reviewing the outcome of the
arbitration proceedings is not to correct factual or legal
errors made by an arbitrator.”
Major League Umpires Ass’n v.
Am. League of Prof’l Baseball Clubs, 357 F.3d 272, 279 (3d Cir.
Rather, an arbitration award may be vacated only in the
“exceedingly narrow” circumstances specified under the FAA.
Brentwood Med. Assocs. V. UMW, 369 F.3d 237 (3d Cir. 2005); see
also Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 370 (3d Cir. 2003).
The FAA provides, in particular, four exclusive
grounds upon which arbitration awards can be vacated.
U.S.C. § 10(a).
These limited grounds include circumstances:
(1) “where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue
means;” (2) “where there was evident partiality or corruption in
the arbitrators, or either of them;” (3) “where the arbitrators
were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing,
upon sufficient cause shown, or in refusing to hear evidence
pertinent and material to the controversy; or of any other
misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been
prejudiced;” and/or (4) “where the arbitrators exceeded their
powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final,
and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not
Here, Respondent does not argue that the arbitration
award should be vacated for any of the grounds permitted under
the FAA. (See generally Resp’t Opp’n.)
Rather, it contends that
judgment should not be entered on the arbitration award because
Petitioners provided inadequate notice of the arbitration
The Court, however, finds Respondent’s
position without merit, and will confirm the arbitration award.
Critically, it is “‘axiomatic that all parties to an
arbitration hearing must be given an opportunity to be heard,
which implies the right to receive notice of the hearing.’”
N.J. Reg’l Council of Carpenters v. Chanree Constr. Co., No. 135613, 2014 WL 980649, at *3 n.2 (D.N.J. Mar. 13, 2014)
Nevertheless, “where [p]etitioners
notified [r]espondent of their intention to arbitrate and the
date of the arbitration hearing via regular and certified mail
addressed to [r]espondent’s principal place of business, and
where [r]espondent’s agent signed for the letter, [r]espondent
may not argue that it lacked proper notice [in seeking] to
vacate the arbitration award.”
N.J. Bldg. Laborers Statewide
Ben. Funds v. Newark Bd. of Educ., No. 12-7233, 2013 WL 3285283,
at *3 (D.N.J. June 27, 2013); see also Bernstein Seawell & Kove
v. Bosarge, 813 F.2d 726, 729 (5th Cir. 1987) (citation omitted)
(concluding that “due process is not violated if [an
arbitration] hearing proceeds in the absence of one of the
parties when that party's absence is the result of his decision
not to attend”).
Here, Petitioners notified Griffin of their intention
to arbitrate and provided the date of the arbitration hearing
(in bold letters) by two methods, certified mail, return-receipt
requested and regular mail.
(See Ex. A to O’Hare Cert.)
Respondent’s agent then signed for the certified mailing (see
id.), and the United States Postal Service never returned the
notice by regular mail as undeliverable (or otherwise).
O’Hare Cert. at ¶ 3.)
Respondent did not, however, respond to
the correspondence in order to request an adjournment or to
lodge any other objections, nor did it appear at the hearing
Moreover, Respondent does not challenge its receipt of
these notifications, nor its actual knowledge of the date of the
Rather, it challenges only the adequacy of
the timing of these notices, but provides no support for its
position that two weeks constitutes inadequate notice under
these circumstances (i.e., an in-state arbitration proceeding
between two in-state entities).
(See generally Resp’t Opp’n.)
Nor can the Court find two weeks otherwise insufficient,
particularly in the context of routine arbitration proceedings
concerning delinquent benefit contributions.3
See N.J. Bldg.
Laborers Statewide Ben. Funds, 2013 WL 3285283, at *3 (finding
two weeks noticed by certified and regular mail sufficient).
Further, Respondent never sought a postponement of the hearing
during the two weeks in which it had notice.
For all of these reasons, the Court rejects
Respondent’s position that the arbitration award should be
vacated on notice grounds.
See id. (rejecting the respondent’s
argument that “it lacked proper notice” of the arbitration
As noted by Petitioners, Griffin is no stranger to “the
arbitration process or a federal court confirmation proceeding.”
(Pet’rs Reply at 3.) Indeed, Griffin has been a respondent in at
least 6 confirmation proceedings within the last year alone.
(See id. (collecting cases involving Griffin).)
hearing, where the petitioner provided notice of the hearing by
certified and regular mail, and the respondent’s agent
acknowledged receipt of the certified mailing); see also Local
149, Boot & Shoe Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. Faith Shoe Co., 201
F. Supp. 234, 236 (E.D Pa. 1962) (citation omitted) (“The
defendant, having been notified of the time and place of the
hearing, waived its right to be present and to be heard.”).4
Consequently, because the evidence establishes that Respondent
received proper notice of the arbitration hearing and because
Respondent has identified no other grounds upon which to vacate
the arbitration award under the FAA, Petitioners’ motion to
confirm arbitration will be granted and Respondent’s crossmotion to vacate the arbitration award will be denied.
An accompanying Order will be entered.
June 11, 2015
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
Respondent asserts, in the last paragraph of its opposition,
that the arbitrator reached an “inaccurate, excessive and
unsupported” award. (See Resp’t Opp’n at 3.) Respondent,
however, provides no support for this position, nor has
Respondent argued that, in reaching the award, the arbitrator
exceeded the scope of his authority. (See id.) Nevertheless, a
court’s “role in reviewing the outcome of the arbitration
proceedings” is not, as stated above, to correct factual or
legal errors made by an arbitrator.” Major League Umpires
Ass’n, 357 F.3d at 279. Nothing in this record suggests that the
award is so deficient that it does not derive its logic from the
parties’ collective bargaining agreement. For this reason, the
Court finds that Respondent’s position does not provide a valid
basis to set aside the arbitrator’s award.
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