December 19, 2017
appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
Morris County, Docket No. L-0018-14.
J. Dickinson argued the cause for appellant (McDermott &
McGee, LLP, attorneys; Gabrielle J. Pribula, on the brief).
A. Brndjar argued the cause for intervenor-respondent
Arbitration Forums, Inc. (Goldberg Segalla LLP, attorneys;
Leah A. Brndjar, of counsel and on the brief).
Judges Hoffman,  Gilson, and Mayer.
Hereford Insurance Company (Hereford) appeals from a March
24, 2017 order denying its motion to compel the arbitration
organization, Arbitration Forums, Inc. (AF), to hold an
in-person hearing under the New Jersey Uniform Arbitration
Act (Arbitration Act), N.J.S.A. 2A:23B-1 to -32. The contract
under which AF provides arbitrators for such disputes does
not require in-person hearings. Hereford contends, however,
that it is entitled to an in-person hearing at a physical
location under the Arbitration Act. We affirm because there
is no language in the Arbitration Act requiring an in-person
arbitration hearing. Moreover, Hereford made no showing of a
specialized need for an in-person hearing. Thus, in the
absence of a contract requiring in-person hearings or a
showing of specialized need, a party to an arbitration
proceeding is not entitled to an in-person hearing.
appeal arises out of an automobile accident and subsequent
dispute between two insurance companies concerning
reimbursement of personal injury protection (PIP) benefits.
The relevant facts giving rise to the arbitration are not in
Farm Guaranty Insurance (State Farm) paid PIP benefits to its
insureds, and on January 6, 2014, filed a complaint under
N.J.S.A. 39:6A-9.1, seeking reimbursement of the PIP benefits
from Hereford, the insurer of the tortfeasor. State Farm then
filed a motion to compel arbitration. State Farm has a
contract with AF, under which AF will arbitrate such PIP
reimbursement disputes. Hereford is not a party to that
contract. The contract does not require that arbitration
hearings be in-person. In moving to compel arbitration, State
Farm represented that AF was the least costly, charging a $70
fee, and the fastest forum with the most arbitrators. Thus,
State Farm's motion requested arbitration through AF.
Nevertheless, State Farm also stated that it was open to
using another arbitration organization if requested by
Hereford or ordered by the court.
February 24, 2016, the trial court granted State Farm's
motion and ordered arbitration through AF. The court noted
that Hereford had not suggested an alternative arbitration
organization or provided a persuasive reason why AF should
not conduct the arbitration.
the order was entered, AF was providing in-person arbitration
hearings in New Jersey. Thereafter, AF discontinued its
practice of in-person hearings in favor of telephonic
hearings. On February 15, 2017, Hereford filed a motion to
compel AF to conduct an in-person arbitration hearing at a
physical location. Hereford identified no special reason why
the PIP reimbursement arbitration warranted an in-person
hearing. Instead, Hereford argued that the Arbitration Act
required an in-person hearing for all arbitrations. State
Farm initially supported Hereford's motion, but later
withdrew its support and took no position. Similarly, on this
appeal, State Farm takes no position.
March 17, 2017, the court heard oral argument on
Hereford's motion, and on March 24, 2017, the court
entered an order denying Hereford's motion to compel an
in-person hearing. The trial court reasoned that in-person
hearings are not required under the Arbitration Act, and the