On June 28, 2022, a Texas appellate court affirmed the trial court’s confirmation of an arbitration award over the objection that the arbitrator had exceeded his powers. Antonio Vargas v. Rigid Global Buildings, LLC, No. 14-20-00309-CV, 2022 Tex. App. LEXIS 4371 (Tex. App. June 28, 2022).
As a condition of his employment with Rigid Global Buildings, LLC (Rigid), Antonio Vargas signed an arbitration agreement. The agreement included a clause requiring all claims relating to Vargas’ employment to be resolved through arbitration. The agreement also required that all claims for arbitration be filed within one year of the incident giving rise to the claim.
Vargas alleged that on or about August 19, 2017, while he was working, a beam fell and injured his foot, and that this accident was caused by the negligence of Rigid’s agents, servants, and employees. However, Vargas waited more than 18 months after the accident to initiate an arbitration proceeding.
Rigid filed a motion for summary judgment in the arbitration asserting that Vargas’s negligence claim was time-barred. The arbitrator granted Rigid’s motion and denied Vargas’ motion for reconsideration. Vargas then filed a petition in court to vacate the arbitrator’s award on the ground that the arbitrator had exceeded his powers by finding the one-year time limit enforceable. The trial court denied Vargas’ petition to vacate and confirmed the award in all respects. Vargas appealed.
The Texas appellate court stated that “Arbitrators exceed their power when they decide a matter not properly before them” and that “[t]o show that the arbitrator exceeded his powers, it is not enough to show that the arbitrator committed an error, or even a grave error.”
Recognizing that arbitrators “derive their authority from the arbitration agreement,” the court noted that, by entering into the agreement with Rigid, Vargas agreed that “any dispute as to whether a claim is arbitrable shall be resolved by the Arbitrator.” The arbitrator’s statements in the award showed that the arbitrator had concluded that the enforceability of the one-year time period was subject to arbitration, and he had resolved it. The court concluded that the arbitrator had the power to apply the time limit and determine its enforceability and had not exceeded his powers in doing so.