August 1, 2008
REMAX ALL PROS AND JAMES J. HUGHES, PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
CHARLENE MIMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Gloucester County, Docket No. L-352-07.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted July 1, 2008
Before Judges Cuff and Fuentes.
Defendant Charlene Mims appeals from the order of the Law Division confirming an arbitration award entered in favor of plaintiffs Remax All Pros (Remax) and James J. Hughes, in connection with a contractual dispute. We affirm.
Defendant entered into a one-year agreement with Remax to act as an independent contractor effective July 31, 2003. The contract had an alternative dispute resolution clause, requiring that disputes be resolved via mediation or arbitration.
On December 5, 2003, Remax terminated the contract for cause, claiming that Mims had engaged in conduct amounting to insubordination, fraud, and deception. Mims filed an action in the Law Division for breach of contract against Remax and Hughes. These named defendants in turn filed a motion to dismiss based on the contract's arbitration clause. Mims did not oppose the motion and on December 3, 2004, the trial court ordered Mims to submit her claims to mediation or arbitration. On November 15, 2005, Mims filed a demand for arbitration against Remax and Hughes with the American Arbitration Association (AAA); Remax and Hughes filed an answer and a counterclaim.
The matter proceeded to arbitration via an arbitrator formally appointed by the AAA without objection by either party. The arbitration process took two days. Mims appeared and participated pro se. The arbitrator denied all of Mims' claims, and awarded Remax and Hughes $20,385.02 as damages on their counterclaim. He also directed that Mims reimburse Remax and Hughes for administrative and arbitration compensation fees in the amount of $2,789.90. The total award was thus $23,174.92, payable with five percent interest per year, commencing on February 15, 2007.
On March 2, 2007, Remax and Hughes filed a verified complaint in the Superior Court seeking to confirm the award. Mims opposed the suit, and the matter came before Judge Morgan for argument and resolution. After considering the parties' position, and mindful of the limited nature of the court's role in reviewing arbitration awards under N.J.S.A. 2A:23B-23, Judge Morgan entered an order confirming the award. He explained the basis for his ruling in a memorandum of decision dated July 18, 2007.
Mims now appeals arguing that the arbitration award should have been vacated because: (1) it precluded her access to statutory remedies; (2) the arbitration proceeding denied her the opportunity to present all of the evidence she would have been able to present in court; (3) the arbitrator exceeded his authority by awarding punitive damages; and (4) the arbitrator ignored the evidence she presented.
After a careful review of the record, we reject Mims' arguments and affirm substantially for the reasons expressed by Judge Morgan in his memorandum of opinion. We find no statutorily recognized grounds for vacating or modifying the award. N.J.S.A. 2A:23B-23; N.J.S.A. 2A:23B-24.
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