Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help
Roosa v. Tillotson
Download as PDF
Wordperfect 3
Back to Opinions page

MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	1997 ME 121
Docket: 	Yor-96-799
on Briefs:	May 16, 1997
Decided:	May 30, 1997



	[¶1]  In this action fraught with procedural irregularities, Kathleen
Roosa appeals from a judgment entered in the Superior Court (York County,
Fritzsche, J.) dismissing her complaint to vacate an arbitration award and
confirming an arbitration award regarding the disposition of real estate in
York (the York Beach property).  Roosa contends that the arbitrator and the
court erred by determining that the arbitrator had the authority to arbitrate
the dispute between Roosa and Tillotson because she was not a party to any
agreement to arbitrate and she did not participate in the arbitration
proceedings.{1}  We agree that the arbitrator had no authority over the dispute
between Roosa and Jayne Tillotson and vacate the judgment.
	[¶2]  We will uphold the court's confirmation of an arbitration award
unless the court was compelled to vacate the award.  American Fed'n of
State, County, & Mun. Employees, Council 93 v. City of Portland, 675 A.2d
100, 102 (Me. 1996).  The issue presented to us in this case turns on the
question of substantive arbitrability, i.e., whether the parties intended to
submit the dispute to arbitration.  The final decision on the question of
substantive arbitrability rests with the court.  Pelletier & Flanagan, Inc. v.
Maine Court Facilities Auth., 673 A.2d 213, 215 (Me. 1996); Cape Elizabeth
Sch. Bd. v. Cape Elizabeth Teachers Ass'n, 459 A.2d 166, 168 (Me. 1983). 
"We review the court's determination of substantive arbitrability for errors of
law."  Pelletier, 673 A.2d at 215.  	
	[¶3]  The Uniform Arbitration Act, 14 M.R.S.A. §§ 5927-5949 (1980),
requires a reviewing court to vacate an arbitration award if the parties did
not agree to arbitrate.  Cape Elizabeth Sch. Bd., 459 A.2d at 168; 14 M.R.S.A.
§ 5938(1)(E).  Maine has a broad presumption favoring substantive
arbitrability, which dictates a conclusion that a dispute has been subjected to
arbitration if (1) the parties have generally agreed to arbitrate disputes, and
(2) the party seeking arbitration presents a claim that, on its face, is
governed by the arbitration agreement.  Id. at 168-69; Westbrook Sch.
Comm. v. Westbrook Teachers Ass'n, 404 A.2d 204, 207-08 (Me. 1979).
	[¶4]  The substantive arbitrability of this dispute fails on the first
prong of the test stated above because Roosa never agreed to arbitrate any
disputes with Tillotson.  "[P]arties 'cannot be compelled to submit their
controversy to arbitration unless they have manifested in writing a
contractual intent to be bound to do so.'"  State of the Arts, Inc. v. Congress
Property Management Corp., 1997 ME 18, ¶ 4, 688 A.2d 926 (quoting
Nisbet v. Faunce, 432 A.2d 779, 782 (Me. 1981)); see also Maine Cent. R.R.
v. Bangor & Aroostook R.R., 395 A.2d 1107, 1116 (Me. 1978) (parties
cannot be forced to arbitrate or abide by ex parte award without clear
contractual language evidencing intent to be bound); Maine State Employees
Ass'n, SEIU Local 1989 v. Bureau of Employee Relations, 652 A.2d 654, 655
(Me. 1995) (trial court could not compel arbitration because contract
between the parties, which contained arbitration provision, had expired and
Uniform Arbitration Act requires existence of written arbitration
agreement).  The agreement to arbitrate must take the form of a single
signed document or be contained in writings exchanged between the
parties.  Nisbet, 432 A.2d at 782 (attorney could not compel client to
participate in fee arbitration because parties had not signed an agreement to
arbitrate any controversies arising between them). 
	[¶5]  The record in this case reveals no agreement to arbitrate
between Roosa and Tillotson.  The arbitration clause at issue in the case is
located in a personal contract between two sisters, Sally Smith and Jayne
Tillotson.  The purpose of that contract was to resolve pending litigation and
to establish an agreed method for disposing of and distributing the
remaining assets of their father's estate.  Roosa is not a party, successor,
assignee, or signatory to that contract and therefore is not bound by its
arbitration provision.{2}  Contrary to Tillotson's contentions, the fact that
Roosa purchased Smith's interest in the York Beach property does not make
her bound by the arbitration provision of that contract.   
	[¶6]  The court's obligation to confirm an arbitrator's award arises only
if the court has first determined that there exists a binding contract for
arbitration.  Maine Cent. R.R., 395 A.2d at 1118.  An arbitration award that is
made beyond the arbitrator's jurisdiction is of no effect and denies the
reviewing court subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute.  Id.  Since the
arbitrator exceeded the scope of his authority, the court erred in confirming
the arbitration award.  The award should have been vacated pursuant to 14
M.R.S.A. § 5938(1)(C) & (E).
	The entry is:
Judgment vacated.  Remanded with instructions to
vacate the arbitrator's April 1996 order and award
and the June 1996 supplemental order insofar as
they pertain to Kathleen Roosa.

Attorney for plaintiff: Mark F. Weaver, Esq. Ford, Ford & Weaver, P.A. Noble's Island 500 Market Street, Suite 1B Portsmouth, NH 03801-3456 Attorneys for defendants: Robert B. Woodman, Esq. Michael J. O'Toole, Esq. Woodman & Edmands, P.A. P O Box 468 Biddeford, Maine 04005-0468
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} 14 M.R.S.A. § 5938 (1980) provides in pertinent part: 1. Vacating award. Upon application of a party, the court shall vacate an award where: . . . C. Arbitrators exceeded their powers; . . . E. There was no arbitration agreement and the issue was not adversely determined in proceedings under section 5928 and the party did not participate in the arbitration hearing without raising an objection. {2} Further, the assignment clause of the contract states that the contract and the rights thereunder may not be assigned by either party without written consent of the other party. Neither party has consented to an assignment.