Caldwell & Kearns, P.C.
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Looking out for neutrality in the arbitration process

In our previous post, we began speaking about the issue of arbitrator neutrality. The issue of neutrality is an important one, particularly in cases where one of the parties to the dispute appoints the arbitrator. So, what types of things should one watch out for in terms arbitrator impartiality, and how can one protect oneself when there is a lack of neutrality?

Some signs of partiality are going to be more obvious than others, such as acts of fraud, corruption, or misconduct in favor of an opponent, or taking a case in which the arbitrator has a personal stake or some other evident bias toward one party or another. More often than not, though, impartiality is going to be more subtle.

Things to look for are that the arbitrator acts professionally and with formality, follows the rules established for the arbitration process and is solicitous that both parties understand the process and have the opportunity to resolve any issues related to the process.  Certain ethics rules may apply to arbitrators, depending on the case, such as the obligation to disclose interests or relationships which could affect the arbitrator’s ability to render an impartial decision. It is important for parties to an arbitrated dispute to be aware when these rules apply to their case.

What happens when a biased arbitrator renders a decision? What remedies are there? Pennsylvania state law provides that an arbitration award may be set aside in cases where the arbitrator was evidently impartial throughout the process. Normally, a party will not have a complaint about an impartial arbitrator unless the award ends up being in favor of their opponent. Working with an experienced attorney can help ensure one understands the rules of the process and, if necessary, has help challenging an partial arbitration decision.

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