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CHARLES F. CRAIG v. THE HONORABLE CHARLES T. BARBER

APRIL 27, 1988

CHARLES F. CRAIG
v.
THE HONORABLE CHARLES T. BARBER, CIRCUIT JUDGE, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT OF HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI



BEFORE ROBERTSON, SULLIVAN AND GRIFFIN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This is an arbitration case before us interloctorily via the arbitrator's application for a writ of prohibition. Pursuant to a standard arbitration clause of a home renovation and additions contract, the contractor demanded arbitration of his claim for more money due to change orders. Owners submitted to arbitration and counterclaimed for their own award. In due course the arbitrator awarded owners some $48,000.00.

 In the confirmation litigation that has followed, the quite miffed contractor seeks to undermine the very process he originally insisted upon. The Circuit Court did likewise as it ordered the arbitrator to clarify and explain the basis of his award. Arbitrator seeks relief from that order which for the reasons set forth below we grant.

 II.

 On December 1, 1983, Carl and Nancy Herrin (Owners/Herrins) entered into a written construction contract with Milton M. Stewart, Inc. (Contractor/Stewart). Under that contract Stewart was to undertake certain renovations, repairs and additions to the Herrins' home.

 Central to today's controversy is Paragraph 21 of the contract which reads:

 21. All claims or disputes between the contractor [Stewart] and the owner [the Herrins] arising out of, or relating to, the contract documents or the breach thereof shall be decided by arbitration in accordance with the construction industry arbitration rules of the American Arbitration Association then obtaining unless the parties mutually agree otherwise.

 Such pre-controversy agreements are enforceable in this state. Miss. Code Ann. 11-15-103 (Supp. 1987).

 In the course of the work, a dispute arose. On December 17, 1984, Stewart filed with the American Arbitration Association a demand for arbitration. Stewart demanded $36,937.73 in additional compensation resulting from change orders. The Herrins disputed all but $9,506.40 of the change orders and counterclaimed for $56,049.04.

 Pursuant to agreement of the parties, the AAA on January 16, 1985, formally appointed Charles F. Craig, a Jackson,

 Mississippi, architect, as arbitrator. *fn1 Craig presided over a five day hearing and on May 15, 1985, entered a written award that Stewart pay to the Herrins the sum of $48,813.00; that Stewart's claims be denied; and that administrative fees and expenses be borne equally between the parties. See Miss. Code Ann. 11-15-119 and -121 (Supp. 1987).

 On July 12, 1985, the Herrins sought confirmation of the award by filing their complaint in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, Mississippi. See Miss. Code Ann. 11-15-125 (Supp. 1987). Stewart is defending on grounds of the "evident partiality" of arbitrator Craig. See Miss. Code Ann. 11-15-133(1) (b) (Supp. 1987). In pursuing that defense, Stewart sought to take the deposition of Arbitrator Craig. In lieu thereof, the Circuit Court ordered that Craig "explain and clarify" the basis of his award. *fn2 That order is the object of the parties' dispute this day.

 Arbitration awards are made in writing, but, absent contractual agreement to the contrary, arbitrators have no legal obligation that the bases or reasons for the award be given. See Miss. Code Ann. 11-15-119 (Supp. 1987); Rule 42, Construction Industry Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association. The AAA's Guide for Commercial Arbitrators provides

 NO WRITTEN OPINION REQUIRED

 Commercial arbitrators are not required to explain the reasons for their decisions. As a general rule, the award consists of a brief direction to the parties on a single sheet of paper. One reason for brevity is that written opinions ...


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