Legislature Adopts Uniform Arbitration Act – Effective 1/1/06

The Washington Legislature adopted the new Uniform Arbitration Act, which was signed into law. The new act became effective on January 1, 2006. Beginning July 1, 2006, the Act will govern all agreements to arbitrate, excluding agreements between employers and employees or employers and associations of employees, even if the arbitration agreement was entered into before the effective date of the Act.

The points below summarize some of the key provisions in the new law.

1. Nonwaivable Provisions The right to apply for judicial relief by motion. The right to arbitrate pursuant to an arbitration agreement, except upon a ground that exists in law or in equity for revocation of the arbitration contract. The right to seek provisional remedies in court before an arbitrator is appointed and is authorized and able to act, or after an arbitrator is appointed and is authorized and able to act, if the matter is urgent. The right of an arbitrator to issue subpoenas for the attendance of a witness and for the production of records and to permit a deposition of any witness. The jurisdiction of the court to enforce an agreement to arbitrate and that an agreement to arbitrate confers exclusive jurisdiction on the court to enter judgment on an award. The right to appeal a court order denying a motion to compel arbitration, granting a motion to stay arbitration, confirming or denying confirmation of an award, modifying or correcting an award, vacating an award without directing a rehearing, or a final judgment on an arbitration award. Unreasonably restricting the required disclosure of facts by a neutral arbitrator. The right of a party to be represented by a lawyer at any proceeding. The effective date provisions of the Act. A person’s right to compel or stay arbitration. The immunity of an arbitrator. A party’s obligations to timely serve objections to a motion to modify or correct an award or for the court to submit a motion to it to modify or correct an award to the arbitrator to consider whether to modify or correct the award. A party’s right to have the court confirm an arbitration award. A party’s right to vacate an arbitration award under the terms of the Act. A party’s right for modification or correction of an award under the Act. A party’s right to obtain a judgment on an award.

2. Waivable Issues The right of a court to decide whether an agreement to arbitrate exists or a controversy is subject to an agreement to arbitrate. Note that AAA Construction Industry Arbitration Rule 8 provides the arbitrator the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including any objections with respect to the existence, scope, or validity of the arbitration agreement.

3. Provisional Remedies. Provisional remedies are expressly included whereby a party may obtain relief both in court and before an arbitrator. These include injunctive relief.

4. Consolidation of Arbitration Proceedings. Consolidation is expressly allowed assuming there are separate agreements to arbitrate and the claims arise in substantial part from the same transaction or series of related transactions, existence of a common issue of law or fact creates the possibility of conflicting decisions, and prejudice will result from a failure to consolidate which is not outweighed by the risk of undue delay or prejudice the rights to parties opposing consolidation. Certain claims may be consolidated and others may not be consolidated. A court may not order consolidation of the claims of a party to an agreement to arbitrate that prohibits consolidation.

5. Disclosure by Arbitrator. Before accepting an appointment, an arbitrator, after making reasonable inquiry, is required to disclose to all parties and any other arbitrators any known facts that a reasonable person would consider likely to affect the impartiality of the arbitrator, including a financial or personal interest in the outcome of the arbitration and an existing or past relationship with any of the parties, their counsel or representatives, witnesses, or the other arbitrators. An arbitrator has a continuing obligation to disclose to the parties and other arbitrators any facts that the arbitrator learns after accepting an appointment that a reasonable person would consider likely to affect his or her impartiality. If an arbitrator discloses a fact required to be disclosed, and a party timely objects to the appointment or continued service of the arbitrator, the objection may be grounds to vacate any arbitration award. If an arbitrator does not disclose a fact required to be disclosed, upon timely objection by a party, an award may be vacated. An arbitrator who does not disclose a known, direct, and material interest in the outcome of the arbitration, or a known, existing, and substantial relationship with a party is presumed to act with evident partiality.

6. Immunity of Arbitrator. An arbitrator is immune from civil liability to the same extent as a judge acting in a judicial capacity. Failure to make required disclosure does not cause a loss of immunity.

7. Attorneys’ Fees. Attorneys’ fees may be awarded to the prevailing party in a contested judicial proceeding involving the confirmation of an award, the vacation of an award, or the modification or correction of an award. Posted in Arbitration, Recent Legislation

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