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12/11/92 STEPHEN SHAFF v. SUSAN E. SKAHILL

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS


December 11, 1992

STEPHEN SHAFF, APPELLANT
v.
SUSAN E. SKAHILL, APPELLEE

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; (Hon. Richard M. Urbina, Motions Judge)

Before Ferren, Terry, and Sullivan, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan

SULLIVAN, Associate Judge: Having participated in consensual, binding arbitration proceedings, appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying confirmation of the arbitrator's award of damages in his favor in the absence of legally sufficient grounds to vacate the award. *fn1 We agree and, accordingly, reverse the court's order and remand for the entry of an order confirming the arbitrator's award.

I.

Appellee entered into two contracts with appellant and Mihail Karras for renovation of two houses owned by appellee in the District of Columbia. Both contracts provided that any claims and/or disputes between the parties arising out of or relating to the contracts would be decided by binding arbitration. *fn2 After a dispute arose, appellee filed suit in Superior Court against appellant and Karras *fn3 and alleged, inter alia, that the contracts were void and unenforceable. Appellee maintained that appellant and Karras were unlicensed home-improvement contractors who had required and accepted payment in advance of the full completion of all work required to be performed by them pursuant to the contracts, in contravention of the District of Columbia Home Improvement Licensing Regulations (hereinafter "licensing regulations"). *fn4 Appellant then filed an unopposed motion for a stay of proceedings in the trial court pending the outcome of arbitration proceedings that he sought to commence. Thereupon, the court entered an order staying further proceedings and affording the parties an opportunity to submit their dispute to arbitration. Appellant commenced an arbitration proceeding with the American Arbitration Association, which culminated in a hearing before an arbitrator in which both parties testified and presented witnesses and documentary evidence. The arbitrator awarded damages in favor of appellant.

On August 7, 1991, appellant filed a motion in Superior Court, pursuant to Super. Ct. Civ. R. 70-I, *fn5 to confirm the arbitration award. Appellee opposed the motion on the principal ground that the arbitrator's award was "wrong" and "presumed" to be based on an error of law committed by the arbitrator, namely, that the licensing regulations, see note 4, (supra) , did not apply to appellant. *fn6 The motions Judge issued a brief order denying, without an opinion, appellant's motion to confirm the arbitrator's award of damages. This appeal followed.

II.

Arbitration in the District of Columbia is governed by the District of Columbia Uniform Arbitration Act, D.C. Code §§ 16-4301 to -4319 (1989). Section 16-4310 provides that, "upon application of a party, the Court shall confirm an award, unless within the time limits hereinafter imposed grounds are urged for vacating or modifying or correcting the award . . . ." Id. (Emphasis added). See Thompson v. Lee, 589 A.2d 406, 409 (D.C. 1991); Celtech, Inc. v. Broumand, 584 A.2d 1257, 1259 (D.C. 1991); Capozio v. American Arbitration Ass'n, 490 A.2d 611, 615 (D.C. 1985); Brandon v. Hines, supra note 3, 439 A.2d at 509. D.C. Code § 16-4311 (a) sets forth five grounds for vacating an arbitration award, *fn7 none of which appellee relied on to challenge confirmation of appellant's arbitration award. Accordingly, appellant contends that since no statutory grounds were alleged by appellee to vacate the arbitrator's award, the motions Judge erred by denying his motion to confirm the award. We agree.

Appellee opposed the motion for confirmation of the award on the principal ground that appellant was an unlicensed home-improvement contractor who required and accepted payments for home-improvement work in contravention of the licensing regulations of the District of Columbia, *fn8 see note 4, (supra) . Thus, appellee argued before the motions Judge, and argues in this court, that the arbitrator "made a highly prejudicial error of law" by making an award of damages in favor of appellant, and, accordingly, the motions Judge properly denied confirmation of the arbitrator's award. *fn9 Appellee's arguments are not persuasive, however. Where, as here, a party has not sought to vacate an arbitrator's award on statutorily-recognized grounds pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-4311, see note 7, (supra) , courts cannot set aside such awards for errors of law or fact made by the arbitrator. Celtech, Inc. v. Broumand, supra, 584 A.2d at 1258; Poire v. Kaplan, 491 A.2d 529, 534 (D.C. 1985) The law is well-settled that "judicial review of arbitration awards is limited." Brandon v. Hines, supra note 3, 439 A.2d at 509 (quoting Sindler v. Batleman, supra note 6, 416 A.2d at 242).

Accordingly, we reverse the order of the motions Judge and remand this case for entry of an order confirming the arbitration award.

Reversed and Remanded.


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