A. Miner Contracting, Inc. (“Miner”) appealed an Arizona federal court’s order denying Miner’s petition to vacate an arbitration award entered against it and in favor of Appellee Dana Kepner Company, Inc.
The Ninth Circuit found that the district court did not err in finding that Miner’s petition to vacate the award was untimely because under Section 12 of the Federal Arbitration Act, the petition had to have been served within three months after the award was filed or delivered, and Miner’s petition was filed more than three years after the award was final. On appeal, Miner argued that the district court should have applied the doctrine of equitable tolling to find the petition was timely filed. Noting that “equitable tolling” would be applied “in situations where, despite all due diligence, the party invoking equitable tolling is unable to obtain vital information bearing on the existence of the claim”, the court held that the facts of the case at hand did not merit application of the doctrine. The information Miner claimed it could not discover was the “evident partiality” of the arbitrator, namely that two of the partners in the arbitrator’s law firm represented the attorney for Miner’s adversary in the arbitration, in an unrelated divorce matter. The Ninth Circuit ruled that Miner had not acted with due diligence because it admitted that it discovered that information by searching the internet, which was readily available to it during the limitations period. The Ninth Circuit also found that even if the petition to vacate was not time-barred, Miner had not shown that there was “evident partiality” on the part of the arbitrator, as the connection alleged “is too attenuated and too insubstantial to create the necessary ‘impression of partiality.’” Thus, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. , Case No. 16-15209 (9th Cir. Aug. 17, 2017).