This post continues a multi-part series explaining options for challenging arbitration awards. Today’s post focuses on the grounds for modifying awards under the Georgia Arbitration Code (O.C.G.A. §§ 9-9-11 and 14). This series previously discussed, “Challenging Arbitration Awards Under the Georgia Arbitration Code (Part I)” and “Challenging Arbitration Awards Under the Federal Arbitration Act.”
A party may apply for a modification through either the arbitrator who granted the award or a trial court. As is true with regard to the ability to vacate arbitration awards, the ability to modify an award is severely limited so as not to frustrate the legislative purpose of the Georgia Arbitration Code. Nevertheless, an award may be modified by the arbitrator and shall be modified by the court under the following circumstances:
- There was a miscalculation of figures or a mistake in the description of any person, thing, or property referenced in the award;
- The arbitrator provided an award on a matter not submitted to arbitration and the award may be corrected without affecting the merits of the decision upon the issues submitted; or
- The award’s form is imperfect, but not in a manner affecting the merits of the controversy.
One of these grounds must apply to obtain a modification. However, a modification cannot be substantive such that it would affect the merits of the case.
For example, in Patterson v. Long, 321 Ga. App. 157, 166, 741 S.E.2d 242, 250 (2013), the movant asked the Superior Court to increase the damage award granted by the arbitrator, arguing that the arbitrator had misapplied the law of strict liability as it relates to damages. The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial of the movant’s application to modify the award because “increasing the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff because of an alleged mistake of law made by the arbitrator clearly would constitute a substantive change to the award, not a mere change in form.” Id.
To initiate a challenge through the arbitrator, a party must file an application to the arbitrator for a change in the award within twenty (20) days after receiving a copy of the award. Awards modified by an arbitrator are still subject to confirmation, vacation or further modification by the court upon application.
Alternatively, to initiate a challenge through a court, a party must file an application to modify the award with the appropriate court, within three (3) months after receiving a copy of the award to be modified. If a court grants the modification, it will also confirm the award as modified. If the court denies the modification, it will confirm the award as originally made by the arbitrator.