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City of Chesterfield v. Frederick Constr. Inc.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

April 21, 2015

CITY OF CHESTERFIELD, Appellant,
v.
FREDERICK CONSTRUCTION INC. and TRAVELER'S CASUALTY AND SURETY COMPANY OF AMERICA, Respondents

Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. 12SL-CC03917. Honorable Richard C. Bresnahan.

Robert M. Heggie, Harold V. O'Rourke, St. Louis, MO, for appellant.

Keith Witten, Overland Park, KS, for respondent.

Kurt S. Odenwald, P. J., concurs. Robert G. Dowd, Jr., J., concurs.

OPINION

Gary M. Gaertner, Jr., Judge.

Page 709

Introduction

The City of Chesterfield (City) appeals the judgment of the trial court confirming an arbitration award that included an award of attorneys' fees against the City. The City argues the arbitrators exceeded their authority in awarding attorneys' fees. We affirm.

Background

The City hired Respondent Frederich Construction, Inc. (FCI) to be the general contractor on two construction projects for the City. The City and FCI executed separate contracts for each of the two projects on June 16, 2009 and December 8, 2009, respectively. Respondent Traveler's Casualty and Surety Company of America (Travelers) was the surety for FCI under both contracts. Both contracts contained provisions stating that all disputes between the parties would be subject to arbitration under the Construction Industry Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration Association (AAA).

Disputes arose under both contracts, and the parties submitted them to arbitration in accordance with their agreements. The arbitrators resolved both disputes in favor of FCI. The first award, dated September 24, 2012, included attorneys' fees of $50,000. The trial court confirmed the award on April 29, 2013, and the City did not appeal that judgment.

In the second arbitration award, dated May 28, 2013 (Final Award), the arbitrators also awarded attorneys' fees to FCI in the amount of $279,037. The City filed a petition in interpleader and a motion to vacate the Final Award's grant of attorneys' fees in the trial court. The City argued that the arbitrators exceeded their authority in awarding attorneys' fees in the Final Award because the contract between the City and FCI contained no provision allowing for attorneys' fees, and AAA rules did not authorize such fees under the circumstances. The trial court denied the City's motion to vacate attorneys' fees and confirmed the Final Award. This appeal follows.

Standard of Review

" Given the purposes of arbitration as an alternative to litigation, judicial oversight of arbitration is narrow and strictly limited." Behnen v. A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc.,285 S.W.3d 777, 779 (Mo. App. E.D.2009). Section 435.405.1[1] contains the only grounds upon which a court may vacate an arbitration award. Doyle v. Thomas,109 S.W.3d 215, 219 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003) ...


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