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Bernard v. Kabco Builders Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Alexandria Division

February 20, 2018

GLENN J. BERNARD
v.
KABCO BUILDERS, INC., et al.

          DRELL JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Joseph H.L. Perez-Montes United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's “Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award” (Doc. 33). Plaintiff contends the arbitration award should be vacated because it only awarded equitable relief and did not award attorney's fees. It is recommended that the Motion to Vacate (Doc. 33) be denied.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Glenn J. Bernard (“Bernard”) filed a petition and amended petition in a Louisiana state court against Defendants Kabco Builders, Inc. (“Kabco”) (manufactured home builder), Andries and Associates, L.L.C. d/b/a Evangeline Home Center (“Andries”) (manufactured home seller), and LA Movers, L.L.C. (“LA Movers”) (manufactured home mover) (Doc. 1). This case was removed by Defendants, alleging a federal question pursuant to the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act (“Magnuson Moss”), 15 U.S.C. § 2301, et seq., and, pursuant to this Court's supplemental jurisdiction (28 U.S.C. § 1367), the New Manufactured and Modular Home Warranty Act (“Home Warranty Act”), La. R.S. 51:912.1, et seq. Bernard seeks specific and general damages, interest, attorney's fees, and costs for a defective new manufactured home he purchased.

         Defendants answered the complaints (Docs. 11). Defendants then filed Motions to Compel Arbitration and to Stay (Doc. 13), which were granted (Doc. 21).

         After arbitration, Bernard filed a “Motion to Reopen/Reinstate Case and to Vacate Arbitration Award” (Doc. 33). The Motion to Reopen/Reinstate Case was granted (Doc. 37). Defendants filed an opposition to the Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award (Doc. 38), to which Bernard replied (Doc. 40).

         Bernard's Motion to Vacate Arbitration Award (Doc. 33) is now before the Court for disposition.

         II. Law and Analysis

         Bernard asks the Court to vacate the arbitration award pursuant to 9 U.S.C. § 10(a)(4), contending the arbitrator exceeded his powers. Bernard argues the arbitrator erred by: (1) failing to apply the New Manufactured and Modular Home Warranty Act, La. R.S. 51:912.1-912.10, and the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, 15 U.S.C. § 2301; (2) awarding equitable relief (ordering Defendants to make repairs) instead of financial relief; and (3) failing to award attorney's fees. Bernard further contends the arbitrator's “award” is indefinite and uncertain, and that a judgment cannot be entered upon it. Bernard asks the Court to award specific and general monetary damages, attorney's fees, and costs.

         A. Scope of Review

         The Federal Arbitration Act reflects a national policy favoring arbitration. See Cooper v. WestEnd Capital Mgmt., L.L.C., 832 F.3d 534, 543-44 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Hall Street Assocs., L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 581 (2008)). In light of the strong federal policy favoring arbitration, judicial review of an arbitration award is extraordinarily narrow. See Cooper, 832 F.3d at 543-44 (citing Rain CII Carbon, LLC v. ConocoPhillips Co., 674 F.3d 469, 471-72 (5th Cir. 2012)); see also Hall Street Assocs., L.L.C., 552 U.S. at 588. Courts must defer to the decision of the arbitrator. See id. The Fifth Circuit consistently has held that arbitrators are not required to disclose or explain the reasons underlying an award. See Antwine v. Prudential Bache Securities, Inc., 899 F.2d 410, 412 (5th Cir. 1990); see also The Houston Lighting & Power Co. v. Int'l Brotherhood of Elec. Workers, 71 F.3d 179, 186 (5th Cir. 1995). If the basis for the award can be rationally inferred from the underlying contract, the reviewing court must confirm the award. See Anderman/Smith Operating Co. v. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., 918 F.2d 1215, 1218 (5th Cir. 1990), cert. den., 501 U.S. 1206 (1991).

         The grounds for vacating an award under the FAA are set forth ...


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