Arbitration – Private Dispute Resolution In Lieu Of Public Court Litigation – Only pursuant to the agreement of the parties.

Virginia has adopted the Uniform Arbitration Act, Virginia Code § 8.01-581.01, et seq.  The act provides the court with power to compel or stay an arbitration proceeding commenced or threatened on a showing that there is no agreement to arbitrate.  § 8.01-581.02. The act empowers arbitrators to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and for the production of books, records, documents and other evidence, to administer oaths, and to permit a deposition to be taken and used for a witness that cannot be subpoenaed or is unable to attend the hearing. § 8.01-581.06. An arbitration clause covering claims ‘relating to’ a contract is broader than a clause covering claims ‘arising out of’ a contract. McMullin v. Union Land & Mgmt. Co., 242 Va. 337, 341, 410 S.E.2d 636, 639 (1991).  Contracts between parties are subject to basic rules of interpretation. Tm Delmarva Power v. Ncp of Va., 263 Va. 116, 119, 557 S.E.2d 199, 200 (2002). In the absence of a clear agreement showing that the parties intended that the arbitrator decide questions of arbitrability, that question is to be resolved by the court. Waterfront Marine Constr. v. N. End 49ers Sandbridge Bulkhead Grps. a, 251 Va. 417, 427, 468 S.E.2d 894, 899 (1996) A party cannot be compelled to submit to arbitration unless he has first agreed to arbitrate. By the same token, he cannot be compelled to arbitrate a question which, under his agreement, is not arbitrable. And the resisting party is entitled to a pre-submission judicial determination of arbitrability. Doyle & Russell, Inc. v. Roanoke Hosp. Asso., 213 Va. 489, 494, 193 S.E.2d 662, 666 (1973). Nevertheless, an “arbitration award ‘must be construed liberally so as to uphold it, if possible.'” Howerin Residential Sales Corp. v. Century Realty of Tidewater, Inc., 235 Va. 174, 179, 365 S.E.2d 767, 770 (1988), (quoting Sydnor Pump & Well Co. v. County Sch. Bd., 182 Va. 156, 167, 28 S.E.2d 33, 37 (1943)).

Tom Roberts, Arbitrator & Mediator
Axiom Mediation

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