Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Bob Perry Case: Supreme Court Turns Arbitration-Averse for the Occasion

Q: When does the Texas Supreme Court NOT like arbitration?

A: When the consumer wants it (and wins). - After all, the purpose of arbitration is to protect business against aggrieved consumers and against the greedy plaintiff's bar.

Austin Supremos - über-eager for years to force common folk like consumers and workers to arbitrate rather than litigate their complaints against businesses and employers (even in the absence of their written consent to an arbitration clause) - overturns arbitration award in favor of home owners who had brought claim against builder and warranty company for lousy home construction and had prevailed in arbitration. Court holds that the plaintiffs deserved it because they (i.e., their evil lawyers) had employed discovery to research their claims prior to demanding arbitration, and had thus forfeited the right to arbitrate ... or so the reasoning goes. Both the trial court and the court of appeals had opined otherwise.

The unilateral right to enforce arbitration clauses

Perry Homes v. Cull, No. 05-0882 (Tex. May 2, 2008)(Opinion by Scott A. Brister) (trial court should not have enforced plaintiffs' contractual right to compel arbitration, and erred in confirming the award)

Full case style and details: PERRY HOMES, A JOINT VENTURE, HOME OWNERS MULTIPLE EQUITY, INC., AND WARRANTY UNDERWRITERS INSURANCE COMPANY v. ROBERT E. CULL, AND S. JANE CULL; from Tarrant County; 2nd district (02-04-00052-CV, 173 S.W.3d 565, 08-31-05)

Disposition by the Supreme Court: The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment, vacates the arbitration award, and remands the case to the trial court. Justice Brister delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Hecht, Justice O'Neill, Justice Wainwright, and Justice Medina joined, and in which Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice Green, Justice Johnson, and Justice Willett joined as to parts I-V.

Justice O'Neill delivered a concurring opinion.

Justice Johnson wrote an opinion concurring and dissenting in part, which was joined by Chief Justice Jefferson and Justice Green

Justice Willett delivered an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

The Opinion in appellate court below: Perry Homes v. Cull, 02-04-00052-CV, (Tex.App.- Fort Worth, Aug 31, 2005, pet . filed)

Appellees Robert and Jane Cull (“the Culls”) sued Appellants Perry Homes, A Joint Venture (“Perry Homes”), Home Owners Multiple Equity, Inc. d/b/a Home/RWC of Texas (“HOME”), and Warranty Underwriters Insurance Company (“WUIC”) for the faulty construction of their home. Approximately a year after filing suit, the Culls filed a motion to compel arbitration. Although Appellants opposed arbitration, the trial court granted the Culls’ motion to compel arbitration. After arbitration was completed, the Culls filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award, and Appellants filed a motion to vacate or alternatively to modify the arbitration award. In its final judgment, the trial court confirmed the arbitration award. In six issues, Appellants now generally argue that the trial court erred by compelling the parties to participate in arbitration, confirming the resulting arbitration award, and denying Appellants’ motion to vacate or modify that award. Because we hold that (1) the Culls did not waive arbitration, (2) the arbitrator was not evidently partial, (3) the arbitrator did not act in manifest disregard of the law, and (4) the Culls did not fail to meet their summary judgment burden, but (5) the trial court did err by failing to modify its award of post-judgment interest that was awarded in addition to the interest in the arbitration award, we affirm the trial court’s judgment as modified.

Related terms and links: arbitration clause, arbitration award consumer law homeowner law residential construction law and litigation Recent Texas abitration case law decisions from the Texas Supreme Court (Tex. 2007) Arbitration appellate decisions from the Houston Courts of Appeals Other Opinions by Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott A. Brister

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