These purposes are thwarted when a party to the arbitration enters into it with the intention from the outset of rejecting its outcome and demanding a trial de novo. Rather than reducing the cost and promoting efficiency in the system, such an attitude increases the costs and reduces the efficiency. Furthermore, such conduct can serve to discourage the poorer litigant and diminish his or her resolve to proceed to final judgment. Explicit in this court's arbitration program is the need for the parties to participate in good faith. Failure to do so warrants appropriate sanctions by the court.
Here, defendants move for trial de novo after the entry of an adverse arbitration award. The court grants the motion, but imposes sanctions on defendants for failure to participate in the arbitration meaningfully.
Plaintiffs were passengers aboard a flight of defendant Eastern Air Lines from Miami to Martinique on November 27, 1983. They allege that they were wrongfully ejected from their flight during a stopover in St. Croix after two incidents on board involving knives. Their complaint states claims for breach of contract, negligence, false imprisonment, battery, assault, slander, invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress and conversion.
The court referred the matter to compulsory arbitration, as General Rule 47 requires. The arbitrator heard the case on May 20, 1987. The defendants did not attend the arbitration; their appearance was through counsel. Although the parties dispute the extent of defense counsel's presentation at the arbitration, they agree that she presented summaries of the defendants ' position and read at least a few passages from deposition testimony and answers to interrogatories. The arbitrator found for each of the plaintiffs.
Within the thirty days allotted by General Rule 47(G)(1), defendants moved for a trial de novo. Plaintiffs opposed the motion, contending that defendants' failure to participate meaningfully in the arbitration as General Rule 47(E)(3) requires deprived them of their right to demand a trial de novo. As the court was unable to evaluate the meaningfulness of the defendants' participation in the arbitration, the court remanded the case to the arbitrator for a factual finding on that question.
On November 12, 1987, the arbitrator made the requested factual findings. Letter of Daniel E. Isles, Esq., Arbitrator (November 12, 1987). He found as a fact that defendants' attorney did not participate in the arbitration proceeding in a meaningful manner:
I find as a fact that she merely "went through the motions." I find as a fact that the foregoing was a predetermined position taken by her office, even though that position remains obscure to me. I find as a fact that her "participation" in the arbitration proceeding rendered it a sham. . . .