Fairchild's second allegation of misconduct with respect to the refusal to hear material evidence consists of a purported complaint that Charles Fairchild was not permitted to testify in rebuttal. However, Fairchild's own affidavits reveal that Charles Fairchild was permitted to testify in response to the testimony of Richmond's witness. In actuality, the substance of its complaint deals with the manner in which his testimony was elicited. Specifically, Fairchild's counsel sought to elicit the testimony by comparing it with that of Richmond's witness on a point by point basis, while the arbitrators preferred to simply let Charles Fairchild "tell his story."
Once again, the Court is not persuaded that an attempt such as this to simplify and possibly hasten the presentation of a witness' testimony amounts to misconduct striking at the fundamental fairness of the hearing. Instead, it represents a discretionary decision by the arbitrators as to how they wished to receive Fairchild's testimony, which, in the ultimate analysis, was received and considered. In the informal context of an arbitration proceeding where the common law rules of evidence are not binding, see Barker v. Government Employees Insurance Co., 339 F. Supp. 1064, 1067 (D.D.C.1972), arbitrators should be permitted, as courts often do, to clarify and simplify the presentation of testimony by letting a witness "tell his story." If there was error in receiving testimony in this manner, it was simple error of law which did not amount to misconduct depriving Fairchild of a fair hearing.
Finally, Fairchild alleges misconduct on the part of the arbitrators as a result of their refusal to receive in evidence the transcript of the condemnation trial and the drafts of the leasing agreement. The trial transcript was offered as evidence of the valuation of the condemned interests, the damage to Fairchild resulting from the condemnation, and the expenses incurred by Richmond during the trial. The drafts of the lease were offered to explain the meaning of its provisions.
As regards these objections, the Court would merely reiterate that the determination as to the relevance or irrelevance of this particular documentary evidence would be a matter entrusted to the arbitrators. Irrespective of whether they correctly ruled on receiving this evidence, the Court believes that any mistake with respect to these rulings would also not amount to misconduct such as would undermine the fundamental fairness of the proceedings. As such it would not provide the grounds for vacating the award.
D. Manifest Disregard for the Law
Fairchild has contended that the arbitrators acted in manifest disregard of the law in reaching their decision. The Supreme Court has suggested that an award may be set aside if made by the arbitrators in manifest disregard of the law. See Wilko v. Swan, supra, 346 U.S. at 436, 74 S. Ct. at 187. See also, Revere Copper & Brass, Inc. v. Overseas Investment Corp., supra, 628 F.2d at 84. Of course, manifest disregard for the law must go beyond a mere error in the law or failure on the part of the arbitrators to understand or apply the law before it will serve as grounds for vacating an award. See San Martine Compania De Navegacion, S.A. v. Saguenay Terminals, Ltd., 293 F.2d 796, 801 (9th Cir. 1961). For example, such manifest disregard may exist where the arbitrators understand and correctly state the law, but proceed to disregard it nonetheless. Id. In this instance, however, Fairchild's allegations fall within the realm of errors in the understanding or the application of the law, rather than rising to the level of manifest disregard. Nowhere is it alleged that the arbitrators undertook to correctly state the law and then proceeded to disregard their own pronouncement.
Similarly, the Court is not persuaded by Fairchild's other allegation that the decision of the arbitrators lacked a rational basis. Aside from the fact that the Court does not read the award as being incompatible with the provisions of the leasing agreement, Fairchild's arguments once again amount to no more than an assertion that the arbitrators incorrectly applied the provisions of the leasing agreement. Such an allegation is not sufficient to invalidate an award, particularly in a situation such as this, where the arbitrators were not required to provide an explanation of their ruling and there is no record of the proceedings. Accord Wilko v. Swan, supra, 346 U.S. at 436, 74 S. Ct. at 187.
E. Other Claims
At this point it should also be noted that Fairchild maintains that the award must be vacated because the arbitrators failed to provide a statement of reasons for their decision. However, the arbitrators may render a decision without an explanation of their reasons, see Wilko v. Swan, supra; see also C. M. Hale v. Friedman, 108 U.S. App. D.C. 272, 281 F.2d 635 (D.C. Cir. 1960), and there is no indication that they were required to do otherwise in this instance.
Fairchild further asserts that the arbitrators exceeded their powers in that they determined the rights of individuals who were not parties to the arbitration. Specifically, it claims that an equitable claim against Richmond by Charles Fairchild and his wife was not considered by the arbitrators in reaching their decision on the distribution of the condemnation award.
The Court finds no merit to this challenge. Charles Fairchild and his wife, through their attorney, consented to the payment of the award jointly to Richmond and Fairchild. The arbitrators thereupon decided the respective rights to the award between Richmond and Fairchild. Moreover, Charles Fairchild and his wife were not parties to the lease as individuals, and therefore need not have been included in the arbitration proceedings. The arbitrators cannot be said to have exceeded their powers by failing to act upon an equitable claim of individuals not parties to the controversy before them.
A final argument advanced by Fairchild is that the award is invalid inasmuch as the arbitrators did not deliberate and act as a body. In support of the allegation, it notes that one of the arbitrators signed the award the day after the other two arbitrators signed it. The Court is not persuaded that this mere fact raises any material issue as to whether the arbitrators properly deliberated so as to call into question whether a mutual, definite and final award was made.
The leasing agreement at issue here was a contract evidencing a transaction "involving commerce" within the meaning of Section 2 of the Arbitration Act. As such the Court's review of the award is governed by the Act and the provisions it makes for setting an award aside. Fairchild has failed to raise any genuine issue of material fact as to whether the award violated the provisions of Section 10 of the Act, and Richmond is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, summary judgment shall be entered in favor of Richmond and the arbitration award shall be confirmed.
An appropriate order accompanies this Memorandum.