Unless the rules of the arbitration proceeding provide otherwise, in most cases the decision (i.e. the "award") of an arbitrator is binding on the parties and "final." However, any party who wins in the arbitration typically goes to court seeking "confirmation" of the award as a court judgment. The process for confirming an award is very different from a typical court appeals and usually is very speedy. If confirmed, the arbitrator’s award becomes as enforceable as any other court order.

As the Losing Party, Can I Oppose Confirmation of an Arbitration Award?

The losing party in the arbitration may oppose the winner’s petition for confirmation and/or bring a separate action to set aside ("vacate") the award. However, it is very unusual for courts to vacate arbitration awards.

How Can I Vacate an Arbitration Award?

If you wish to vacate an arbitrator’s decision, it’s possible to attack the award on one of the following grounds:

  • There was a serious conflict of interest on the part of a neutral arbitrator
  • The award was not "final"
  • The award covered a subject that was outside the scope of the arbitration agreement
  • The award provided an amount or kind of relief that the arbitrator was expressly precluded from awarding (i.e. the arbitrator was not allowed to make the decision that he did)

Do I Need an Attorney’s Assistance to Vacate an Arbitrator’s Award?

It is highly likely that an attorney will have represented you during the arbitration proceedings, in which case you can ask him whether there you have a chance of succeeding at vacating the arbitrator’s award. An attorney experienced in litigation and arbitration can analyze the arbitrator’s decision and advise you whether there is a chance that you may be able to get the award vacated. You will want to hire an attorney experienced in the area of law affecting your arbitration. For example, if you lost an arbitration concerning an employment dispute, an employment attorney will be best suited to assist you.