October 21, 2017

Colorado Court of Appeals: District Court Did Not Err in Confirming Arbitration Award

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Pacitto v. Prignano on Thursday, July 27, 2017.

Uniform Arbitration Act—Award—Motion to Vacate—Deadline—Confirmation.

The Prignanos asserted multiple claims against Pacitto, a registered representative, in a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority securities industry arbitration. Pacitto raised several counterclaims. The arbitration panel denied the Prignanos’ claims and awarded Pacitto compensatory damages, punitive damages, and fees solely against Mr. Prignano. Many months later, when Mr. Prignano had not paid the award, Pacitto filed a combined complaint and motion to confirm the arbitration award in district court. Among other things, the Prignanos filed a motion to vacate the award and an amended answer that included a counterclaim for a declaratory judgment vacating the award. The district court order confirmed the arbitration award and found that the Prignanos filed the motion to vacate well past the 91-day deadline, thus waiving their right to object to confirmation of the award.

On appeal, the Prignanos asserted that the district court erred in applying the 91-day deadline in C.R.S. § 13-22- 223(2) and in failing to extend the deadline for filing a counterclaim for one year pursuant to C.R.S. § 13-80-109, when it confirmed the award. Under the Uniform Arbitration Act (UAA), a motion to vacate an arbitration award must be filed within 91 days after the movant receives notice of the award. The parties agreed that the Prignanos filed their motion to vacate and raised their declaratory judgment counterclaim well after the 91-day period for challenging arbitration awards. The more specific limitation period of C.R.S. § 13-22 223(2) that applies only to arbitration proceedings prevails over the more general limitation period contained C.R.S. § 13-80-109, which applies to any civil suit.

The Prignanos also argued that an equitable tolling exception should be read into the UAA. The court of appeals rejected this argument, stating that the notice of the arbitration decision made them aware of their responsibility to challenge the decision in a permitted format and by a statutory deadline. They were aware of all the grounds they could assert on appeal when the arbitration concluded.

The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded for a calculation of Pacitto’s reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred on appeal.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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