Here, the landlord-tenant dispute arose because the tenant’s husband tragically died in an automobile accident, sometime after which rent payments ceased. The parties arbitrated their claims, and the arbitrator awarded $180,000 to landlord, discounting landlord’s claims of nearly $1.3M in damages chiefly because landlord failed to properly mitigate damages. The trial court confirmed the award, and tenant appealed. Gardyn v. Sangha, A134558 (1/3 July 21, 2014) (Siggins, Pollak, Jenkins) (unpublished.)
First, the tenant argued that arbitrator exceeded his powers, because he had taken equity into account, despite the fact that the arbitration clause required disputes between the parties to be decided “in accordance with substantive California law.” The Court of Appeal, however, believed that the arbitrator, in considering fairness and equity, properly took into account the landlord’s mitigation efforts and other factors, so as not to depart from substantive California law. For good measure, the Court added: “’Even where application of a particular law or body of law is required by the parties’ arbitration agreement, an arbitrator’s failure to apply such a law is not in excess of an arbitrator’s powers within the meaning of section 1286.2, subdivision [(a)(4)],” citing Marsch v. Williams, 23 Cal.App.4th 238,244 (1994). (Evidently the arbitration agreement needs a tighter drafting solution for the arbitrator to exceed his powers!).
Second, the Court rejected the argument that the trial court erred by failing to issue a statement of decision. Findings of fact are not required in arbitration matters if the issues presented and determined raise only questions of law – as was the case here.