After an arbitration resulted in an award that included more than $650,000 in attorneys’ fees, the liable party filed a motion to vacate that portion of the award in a federal district court. The attorney for that party, however, only emailed opposing counsel a “courtesy copy” of the 20-page memorandum in support of the motion to vacate and did not formally serve the motion itself until a few weeks later — beyond the FAA’s three-month deadline to seek vacatur of an award. The district court denied the motion to vacate and confirmed the arbitration award, reasoning that the defending party had not consented to service by email, and as a result, there was no timely service of the motion to vacate the award.
On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, explaining that the FAA imposes strict procedural requirements, including those relating to service of a notice of motion to vacate an award. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5 allows service “by other electronic means,” including email, but only to the extent “that the person consented to in writing.” The Eleventh Circuit determined that the adverse party here had not consented in writing, notwithstanding that the underlying arbitration agreement referenced the AAA construction rules, which permit service by email under certain circumstances. Service by email is permitted only for service of “notices required by” the AAA construction rules, and those rules do not include the motion at issue here, requesting that a court vacate an arbitration award. Accordingly, because the adverse party never provided express written consent for email service, the court affirmed the district court’s decision that there was no valid service of the motion to vacate, and also affirmed the confirmation of the award.
O’Neal Constructors, LLC v. DRT America, LLC, No. 20-11045 (11th Cir. Apr. 1, 2021).