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Ricks v. Goderich Aircraft, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 13, 2014

VICTORIA RICKS, Plaintiff,
v.
GODERICH AIRCRAFT, INC., BLAINE FIELD, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

On October 21, 2013, plaintiff Victoria Ricks moved for summary judgment against defendants Goderich Aircraft, Inc. ("Goderich") and Goderich's President, Blaine Field, seeking confirmation of a $670, 000 arbitration award issued October 22, 2012, and an arbitration award for costs and fees, issued March 11, 2013. Dkt. 1. Both awards were issued by the American Arbitration Association's International Centre for Dispute Resolution, in an arbitration proceeding entitled Ricks v. Goderich Aircraft, Inc. and Field, ICDR Case No. 50 132 T 002299 12. Ricks also seeks interest on each award, calculated from its date, and attorneys' fees and costs incurred as a result of the instant motion. Defendants ultimately decided not to oppose the motion. Dkt. 11. For the following reasons, Ricks's motion for summary judgment is granted, except as to her request for those attorneys' fees and costs incurred in the proceedings before this Court, which is denied.

I. Background

On August 11, 2011, Ricks, Goderich, and Field executed a settlement agreement, the purpose of which was to resolve certain business disputes between them. Dkt. 2 ("Pl. Br.") at 1; Declaration of Daniel Lynch ("Lynch Decl.") Ex. A (the "Settlement Agreement"). The Settlement Agreement provided that Goderich would pay Ricks $750, 000 in certain monthly installments, and that in the event of default, Field would tender all of his shares in Goderich to Ricks. Settlement Agreement Ex. B. The parties agreed that any action to enforce the agreement would be resolved in arbitration and that "any court action... shall be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction in New York." Settlement Agreement ¶¶ 9, 12.

A. The $670, 000 Award

On April 12, 2012, after Goderich defaulted on its April 2012 payment and Field failed to tender his shares, Ricks commenced the underlying arbitration proceedings. Pl. Br. 2. On October 22, 2012, the day before the scheduled hearing, the parties stipulated to an award, under which Goderich agreed to pay Ricks $670, 000 and Field agreed to tender his shares in Goderich to Ricks by November 1, 2012. Lynch Decl. Ex. C ("Partial Final Arbitration Award") ¶¶ 1, 4. Ricks represents that, although Field thereafter tendered his shares, Goderich has not paid Ricks any of the $670, 000 it owes her. Pl. Br. 3. She seeks confirmation of that award.

B. The Award of Arbitration Fees and Costs

The Partial Final Arbitration Award also stated, pursuant to the Settlement Agreement, that an award for fees and costs would be entered in favor of Ricks and against Goderich and Field. Partial Final Arbitration Award ¶¶ 2-3. On March 11, 2013, after briefing, the arbitrator entered an award in favor of Ricks for attorneys' fees and costs in the amounts of (1) $11, 614.52 against Goderich and Field jointly and severally; (2) $17, 022.11 against Field individually; (3) $5, 407.59 against Goderich individually; and (4) $13, 080.00 against Goderich and Field jointly and severally, representing arbitration fees and compensation that Ricks had paid. Lynch Decl. Ex. D ("Final Award") ¶¶ 2-4. Ricks also seeks confirmation of that award.

II. Applicable Legal Standard

The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 1 et seq., provides a "streamlined" process for a party seeking a "judicial decree confirming an award, an order vacating it, or an order modifying or correcting it." Hall St. Assocs. L.L.C. v. Mattell, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 582 (2008). "Normally, confirmation of an arbitration award is a summary proceeding that merely makes what is already a final arbitration award a judgment of the court, and the court must grant the award unless the award is vacated, modified, or corrected." D.H. Blair & Co. v. Gottdiener, 462 F.3d 95, 110 (2d Cir. 2006). But "[a]rbitration awards are not self-enforcing." Hoeft v. MVL Grp., Inc., 343 F.3d 57, 63 (2d Cir. 2003), overruled on other grounds by Hall St., 552 U.S. 576. Rather, "they must be given force and effect by being converted to judicial orders by courts." D.H. Blair, 462 F.3d at 104.

Review of an arbitral award by a district court "is severely limited' so as not unduly to frustrate the goals of arbitration, namely to settle disputes efficiently and avoid long and expensive litigation." Salzman v. KCD Fin., Inc., No. 11 Civ. 5865 (DLC), 2011 WL 6778499, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2011) (quoting Willemijn Houdstermaatschappij, BV v. Standards Microsystems Corp., 103 F.3d 9, 12 (2d Cir. 1997)). "To ensure that the twin goals of arbitration, namely, settling disputes efficiently and avoiding long and expensive litigation are met, arbitration awards are subject to very limited review." NYKcool A.B. v. P. Fruit Inc., No. 10 Civ. 3867 (LAK)(AJP), 2010 WL 4812975, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 24, 2010) (collecting recent Second Circuit cases). Indeed, "an arbitration award should be enforced, despite a court's disagreement with it on the merits, if there is a barely colorable justification for the outcome reached." Landy Michaels Realty Corp. v. Local 32B-32J, Serv. Emps. Int'l Union, AFL-CIO, 954 F.2d 794, 797 (2d Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).

To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must "show[] that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a question of material fact. In making this determination, the Court must view all facts "in the light most favorable" to the non-moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); see also Holcomb v. Iona Coll., 521 F.3d 130, 132 (2d Cir. 2008). To survive a summary judgment motion, the opposing party must establish a genuine issue of fact by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see also Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). Only disputes over "facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law" will preclude a grant of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether there are genuine issues of material fact, the Court is "required to resolve all ambiguities and draw all permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought." Johnson v. Killian, 680 F.3d 234, 236 (2d Cir. 2012) (citing Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 137 (2d Cir. 2003)).

However, "[e]ven when a motion for summary judgment is unopposed, the district court is not relieved of its duty to decide whether the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Vt. Teddy Bear Co. v. 1-800 Beargram Co., 373 F.3d 241, 242 (2d Cir. 2004); Amaker v. Foley, 274 F.3d 677, 681 (2d Cir. 2001) ("[W]hen a nonmoving party chooses the perilous path of failing to submit a response to a summary judgment motion, the district court may not grant the motion without first examining the moving party's submission to determine if it has met its burden of demonstrating that no material issue of fact remains for trial...."). Similarly, on an unopposed motion for confirmation of an arbitration award,

a court "may not grant the motion without first examining the moving party's submission to determine if it has met its burden of demonstrating that no material issue of fact remains for trial. If the evidence submitted in support of the summary judgment motion does not meet the movant's burden of production, then ...

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