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Ottley v. Schwartzberg

decided: May 27, 1987.

PETER OTTLEY, AS PRESIDENT OF LOCAL 144, HOTEL, HOSPITAL, NURSING HOME AND ALLIED SERVICES UNION, SEIU, AFL-CIO, AND AS TRUSTEE OF THE NEW YORK CITY NURSING HOME--LOCAL 144 WELFARE FUND, THE LOCAL 144 NURSING HOME PENSION FUND, AND THE LOCAL 144 HEALTH FACILITIES TRAINING & UPGRADING FUND, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
ALBERT SCHWARTZBERG, ROSE BORITZER, AND ARNO BORITZER D/B/A KINGSBRIDGE HEIGHTS MANOR, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from an order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, (Carter, J.) denying petition to confirm arbitration award and remanding to arbitrator to determine compliance with award.

Feinberg, Chief Judge, Lumbard and Miner, Circuit Judges.

Author: Miner

MINER, Circuit Judge:

Petitioner-appellant Peter Ottley filed a petition to confirm an arbitration award in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Carter, J.). In his petition, Ottley requested that, in the event confirmation was opposed, respondents-appellees Albert Schwartzberg, Rose Boritzer, and Arno Boritzer be required to pay damages authorized by section 502(g)(2) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2) (1982). The district court denied the petition to confirm, and remanded the matter to the arbitrator to determine whether respondents were in compliance with the award.

Ottley appeals from the district court order, seeking confirmation of the award and renewing his claims for damages. Respondents urge dismissal of this appeal on jurisdictional grounds, contending that the district court's order is not a final, appealable order within the purview of 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1982).

We hold that the order is appealable, that the district court's remand to the arbitrator was improper, and that petitioner's ERISA claims for damages were not properly joined in a petition to confirm an arbitration award.

We reverse and remand with instructions that the petition to confirm be granted and that the ERISA claims be dismissed without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND

Petitioner-appellant Peter Ottley is President of Local 144 of the Hotel, Hospital, Nursing Home and Allied Services Union, SEIU, AFL-CIO. Ottley also serves as trustee of three labor-management trust funds. Two of these funds -- the Welfare Fund and the Training Fund -- are employee welfare benefit plans within the meaning of 29 U.S.C. § 1002(1) (1982); the Pension Fund is an employee pension plan under 29 U.S.C. § 1002(2) (1982). Respondents-appellees Albert Schwartzberg, Rose Boritzer, and Arno Boritzer are members of a partnership doing business as Kingsbridge Heights Manor, a residential health care facility located in Bronx, New York. Under a series of collective bargaining agreements, respondents are required to make monthly contributions to the three trust funds, based on a percentage of the employer's gross monthly payroll for those employees covered by the labor contracts. The contracts also mandate binding arbitration of disputes arising between the union and respondents.

Following the execution of the most recent labor agreement, Ottley and the union commenced an arbitration proceeding against respondents, based on their alleged failure to meet monthly obligations to the Welfare and Pension Funds. After submission of the dispute to arbitration, a memorandum of agreement was executed by the parties on February 4, 1985. Under the agreement, respondents acknowledged indebtedness of $360,000.00 through the period ending December 31, 1984 and consented to an arbitration award in that amount. Respondents agreed not to oppose confirmation of the arbitrator's award, and a repayment schedule was established. On February 8, 1985, the arbitrator issued a consent award based on the terms of the memorandum of agreement. It provided, inter alia, that "this Award may be confirmed in any court of competent jurisdiction, and, the Employer, pursuant to its specific agreement[,] shall not oppose confirmation of this Award."

Alleging that respondents had failed to comply with the repayment schedule and that they had fallen behind in their current obligations to the funds, Ottley filed a petition to confirm the consent award in the district court on May 24, 1985. The petition sought an order requiring respondents to remit the sums fixed by the arbitration award and to pay costs and attorneys' fees. In the event that respondents opposed the petition, Ottley requested that they be required to pay damages authorized by the civil enforcement provisions of ERISA. See 29 U.S.C. § 1132(g)(2). Respondents maintained that, while they "[did] not wish to oppose confirmation," the petition to confirm was inappropriate inasmuch as the alleged default had been cured.

On October 24, 1985, Judge Carter denied the petition and remanded the proceedings to the arbitrator for a determination of respondents' compliance with the award. Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied by the district judge on December 10, 1985. Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal.

II. DISCUSSION

Section 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 9 (1982) (the "Act"), sets forth the procedures under which arbitration awards are to be confirmed by district courts. The statute provides that the district court must grant a petition to confirm an arbitration award if it properly is brought within one year of the date of the award, unless one of the statutory bases for vacating or modifying the award is established. See 9 U.S.C. §§ 10, 11 (1982); see also Sperry Int'l Trade, Inc. v. Government of Israel, 689 F.2d 301, 304 (2d Cir. 1982); Diapulse Corp. v. Carba, Ltd., 626 F.2d 1108, 1110 (2d Cir. 1980). In the confirmation proceedings below, respondents did not raise any of the statutory grounds ...


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