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John Ivan Sutter, M.D v. Oxford Health Plans

July 5, 2011

JOHN IVAN SUTTER, M.D., PLAINTIFF,
v.
OXFORD HEALTH PLANS, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Brown, Chief Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon the motion of Plaintiff John Ivan Sutter, M.D. ("Plaintiff") to vacate an order issued by Arbitrator William Barrett ("Arbitrator") in Plaintiff's underlying arbitration with Defendant Oxford Health Plans, LLC ("Defendant"). (Doc. No. 21) Defendant opposes Plaintiff's present motion. (Doc. No. 22) The Court has considered the parties' submissions without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78. Having done so, Plaintiff's present motion will be denied for the reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

The instant dispute arises out of a certified class arbitration (the "Arbitration") brought by Plaintiff on behalf of various New Jersey physicians that generally seek redress from Defendant for improper claim processing practices. In the course of the Arbitration, the Arbitrator issued Procedural Order No. 19 (the "Order"). In the present motion, Plaintiff argues that the Arbitrator's Order should be vacated by this Court. In support of that motion, Plaintiff argues that the Arbitrator exceeded his powers and manifestly disregarded New Jersey law in the Order by failing to apply New Jersey's prompt payment "waiver" regulation to the claims and denying "millions of dollars" to the class represented by Plaintiff. Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion and argues that the Order simply resolved a discovery dispute, and thus, is not reviewable by this Court. Alternately, Defendant argues that, if the Order is reviewable, it should not be vacated.

II. DISCUSSION

A. The Order Is Not Reviewable

At the outset, the Court agrees with Defendant's argument at the Order is not reviewable pursuant to the terms of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). 9 U.S.C. § 9. Here, Plaintiff argues that the Order is a "partial final determination of the arbitration award," which would be reviewable. According to the relevant provisions of the FAA, in 9 U.S.C. § 16, an appeal may only be taken from the following: (1) an order confirming or denying confirmation of an award or partial award, or (2) an order modifying, correcting, or vacating an award. Here, Procedural Order No. 19 simply resolved a dispute as to whether Plaintiff's or Defendant's schedule for discovery was appropriate. Therefore, it is not reviewable or appealable. Although Plaintiff contends that the Order is in fact a partial determination of the class's award, that argument is specious and not persuasive. The Order does not modify or in any way mention the final award, but rather excludes claims that the Plaintiff sought to submit to arbitration despite the Arbitrator's frequent rulings that such claims were inadmissible.

B. The Order Should Not Be Vacated

Alternately, assuming arguendo the Order is reviewable, the Court concludes that vacature is not appropriate. It is well established that the entry of judgment by a federal district court on an arbitration award is governed by Section 9 of the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA).

That section provides, in relevant part, that:

[i]f the parties in their agreement have agreed that a judgment of the court shall be entered upon the award made pursuant to the arbitration.then at any time within one year after the award is made any party to the arbitration may apply to [a] court.for an order confirming the award, and thereupon the court must grant such an order unless the award is vacated, modified, or corrected as prescribed in sections 10 and 11 of this title. 9 U.S.C. § 9. Section 10 of the FAA, in turn, provides that the district court may only vacate an arbitrator's award:

(1) where [it] was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means; (2) where there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators.; (3) where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing, upon sufficient cause shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy; or of any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced; or (4) where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, ...


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