Before Steadman and Schwelb, Associate Judges, and Ferren, Senior
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge
Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(Hon. Joan Zeldon, Trial Judge)
Submitted October 28, 1999
Yolanda McDaniels appeals from an order of the trial court denying her motion to set aside a judgment based on an arbitration award. She contends that her counsel did not receive timely notice of the award and was therefore precluded from filing a timely request for a trial de novo. We affirm.
On May 23, 1997, plaintiffs Linda Brown and Jeannette Harris filed suit against Ms. McDaniels in the Superior Court, alleging personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident. The case was referred for non-binding arbitration pursuant to the Superior Court Civil Arbitration Program Rules (hereinafter the Arbitration Rules). *fn2 On December 16, 1997, a hearing was held at which all parties were represented by counsel. On the following day, the arbitrator, David Florin, issued his decision, in which he awarded $12,000 to Ms. Brown and $12,000 to Ms. Harris.
The arbitrator's decision contains a certificate that "a copy of this award is being mailed to all parties . . . ." A "cc" notation at the bottom of the award reflects that copies were mailed to counsel for plaintiffs and to the defendant, Ms. Yolanda McDaniels. There is no indication in the decision that a copy of the award was mailed to Ms. McDaniels' attorney.
No party filed a demand for trial de novo within fifteen days of the entry of the award. See Arbitration Rule X (b) ("If the time for filing a demand for trial de novo expires without such action, the Clerk of the Civil Division shall enter the Award as a judgment of the Court as to each party."). Although the record is unclear, the parties appear to assume that a judgment was in fact entered by the Clerk.
Notwithstanding the certificate of mailing on the face of the arbitrator's decision, it appears that copies of the document may not have been mailed at all to the parties or their counsel. Rule X (a) of the Arbitration Rules provides in pertinent part that the arbitrator "shall mail or electronically transmit [the Arbitration Award] to all parties, within fifteen days after the arbitration hearing." Nevertheless, counsel for plaintiff represented to the trial court that he had received no decision almost a month after the arbitration hearing:
On or about January 15, 1998, counsel for Plaintiff[s] contacted Mr. Florin's office to ascertain the status of the arbitration decision. At that time, counsel's office was advised that a decision had been rendered by Mr. Florin on December 17, 1997 and copies mailed to all parties.
Plaintiffs' counsel's office informed Mr. Florin's office that Plaintiff[s] had not received any notice of a decision and requested a copy be FAXed to Plaintiffs' counsel's office. A copy of the decision was FAXed to Plaintiff[s] on January 15, 1998. The notice indicated that copies had been mailed to undersigned counsel and Defendant.
Plaintiff[s] mailed a copy of the arbitration award to counsel for Defendant on January 16, 1998. Defendant's counsel states that she received that award on January 21, 1998.
On February 9, 1998, nineteen days after having received actual notice of the arbitrator's decision, counsel for Ms. McDaniels filed a motion to set aside the judgment and for leave to file a demand for trial de novo. On February 12, 1998, counsel for plaintiffs filed an opposition. On February 13, 1998, the court entered an order denying Ms. ...