Clapp, Smalley and Schettino. The opinion of the court was delivered by Clapp, S.j.a.d.
The question to be decided here is, when will a court vacate an arbitrator's award because of error of law on its face?
About August 1, 1950 plaintiff corporation was organized and purchased a mill. Two years later it entered into a collective bargaining agreement with defendant union, agreeing to a two weeks' annual vacation for employees on its payroll for five years or more. The second week of the vacation had to be taken at a time fixed by plaintiff, or in lieu of it, plaintiff could give an extra week's pay; but -- the agreement provided -- the plaintiff
"must discharge [its] entire obligation for vacation pay arising under the provisions of this contract on or before September 15, 1954."
By September 15, 1954, however, no one would have been on plaintiff's payroll for five years, as plaintiff then would have been in existence for only about four years.
The question, which was submitted voluntarily to arbitration, was, in effect, whether the provision as to a two-week vacation was nugatory, or whether, in computing any employee's five-year period, there should be taken into account
time while on the payroll of the company that ran the mill before plaintiff took it over. The arbitrator held such time could be taken into account. The trial court, however, set his award aside, holding the provision for a two-week vacation was nugatory. 28 N.J. Super. 605 (Ch. Div. 1953). Defendant appeals.
It has been said frequently, and may for present purposes be taken to be the law, that an award will be vacated because of an error of law, when it clearly appears from the award or a statement of the arbitrator that he meant to decide the case according to the law. Bell v. Price , 22 N.J.L. 578, 590 (E. & A. 1849), reviewing 21 N.J.L. 32 (Sup. Ct. 1847); Taylor v. Sayre and Peterson , 24 N.J.L. 647, 650 (Sup. Ct. 1855); Ruckman v. Ransom , 23 N.J. Eq. 118, 120 (Ch. 1872); Leslie v. Leslie , 50 N.J. Eq. 103, 108 (Ch. 1892); Eastern Engineering Co. v. City of Ocean City , 11 N.J. Misc. 508 (Sup. Ct. 1933); Hoboken Manufacturers' R.R. Co. v. Hoboken R.R., etc., Co. , 132 N.J. Eq. 111, 118 (Ch. 1942), affirmed 133 N.J. Eq. 270 (E. & A. 1943); Held v. Comfort Bus Line, Inc. , 136 N.J.L. 640 (Sup. Ct. 1948); International Ass'n of Machinists v. Bergen Avenue, etc., Ass'n , 3 N.J. Super. 558, 566 (Law Div. 1949); Anco Products Corp. v. TV Products Corp. , 23 N.J. Super. 116, 124 (App. Div. 1952).
It has been said, too, that a court, in vacating an award on the ground stated, acts by virtue of an authority committed to it by the statute. See N.J.S. 2 A:24-8 a and a nearly identical phrase in the earlier arbitration act, N.J.S.A. 2:40-2. The decisions rely upon the statutory provision (though, it must be acknowledged, this puts some strain on the words of that provision) requiring the court to set aside an award procured by undue means. Taylor v. Sayre and Peterson , 24 N.J.L. 647, 650 (Sup. Ct. 1855), supra; Held v. Comfort Bus Line, Inc. , 136 N.J.L. 640, 641 (Sup. Ct. 1948), supra , and cases citing it; but see Racecourse Betting Control Board v. Secretary for Air , Ch. 114, 119 (Ct. App.); In re Jones and Carter's Arbitration ,
2 Ch. 599 (Ct. App.). Cf. , too, the cases stating that an award may be vacated only on the grounds set forth in N.J.S. 2 A:24-8. Deakman v. Odd Fellows Hall Assn., etc., Inc. , 110 N.J.L. 304 (E. & A. 1933); Caparaso v. Durante , 132 N.J.L. 16 (Sup. Ct. 1944), affirmed 132 N.J.L. , at page 419 (E. & A. 1945); International Ass'n of Machinists v. Bergen Ave., etc., Ass'n , 3 N.J. Super. 558, 565 (Law Div. 1949), supra; Anco Products Corp. v. TV Products Corp. , 23 N.J. Super. 116, 123 (App. Div. 1952), supra; Sturges, Commercial Arbitrations and Awards 861 (1930) and cases cited.
In vacating an award on the ground stated, the court seems to act upon the theory that "there is a resulting failure of intent" on the part of the arbitrators; that the mistake has been such as to have "'* * * deceived or misled them * * *.'" Held v. Comfort Bus Line, Inc. , 136 N.J.L. 640, 642 (Sup. Ct. 1948), supra; Anco Products Corp. v. TV Products Corp. , 23 N.J. Super. 116, 124 (App. Div. 1952), supra; International Ass'n of Machinists v. Bergen Ave., etc., Assn. , 3 N.J. Super. 558, 566 (Law Div. 1949), supra. As has been held, the mistake (it would seem the court is speaking of a mistake of either law or fact) which would ...