No. 1583 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Philadelphia County, No. 4947 September Term, 1980, No. 1585 Philadelphia, 1981, No. 1719 Philadelphia, 1981, Appeal from Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Philadelphia County, No. 4235, September Term, 1980.
Roger Joseph Harrington, Philadelphia, for appellant.
Eugene A. Spector, Philadelphia, for appellee.
Wickersham, Brosky and Wieand, JJ.
[ 316 Pa. Super. Page 141]
Ronald A. Cargill, a Pennsylvania resident employed by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, was injured in an automobile accident on January 1, 1979 in Queens, New York. The vehicle which Cargill was operating at the time of the accident was owned by his employer, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, and insured under a policy issued to the employer by Northwestern National Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (hereinafter "Northwestern"). The vehicle which struck Cargill's automobile from behind was operated by an uninsured motorist. Cargill submitted a claim for benefits under the uninsured motorist coverage provided by the insurance policy issued to his employer and, when the parties were unable to agree on an amount, filed a demand for arbitration. A hearing was held, after which the arbitrators, with one dissent, awarded Ronald A. Cargill the sum of $35,000.00.
Subsequently, a petition to vacate and/or modify the arbitration award was filed by Northwestern, and Cargill, in turn, petitioned for confirmation of the award. Northwestern contended that the award was excessive because it was in an amount more than twenty-five times greater than the medical expenses of $1,385.00. Northwestern alleged also and offered to prove that the arbitration had proceeded under the wrong policy of insurance, resulting in an award in excess of the coverage afforded by the correct policy. Although counsel for Northwestern offered to prove the purported mistake and was prepared to present witnesses, no evidence was in fact received. The trial court rejected
[ 316 Pa. Super. Page 142]
Northwestern's arguments and entered an order granting Cargill's petition to confirm the arbitration award. Judgment was entered, and this appeal followed.*fn1
Arbitration is "designed to provide an expeditious and inexpensive method of resolving disputes with the further winning attribute of helping to ease congested court calendars . . . ." Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fioravanti, 451 Pa. 108, 116, 299 A.2d 585, 589 (1973). Consequently, judicial review of an arbitration award is severely circumscribed. It must be so; otherwise, "'arbitration proceedings, instead of being a quick and easy mode of obtaining justice, would be merely an unnecessary step in the course of litigation, causing delay and expense, but settling nothing finally.'" Allstate Insurance Co. v. Fioravanti, supra, 451 Pa. at 114 n. 4, 299 A.2d at 589 n. 4 quoting Westinghouse Air Brake Co. Appeal, 166 Pa. Super. 91, 97, 70 A.2d 681, 684 (1950). See also: Bole v. Nationwide Insurance Co., 238 Pa. Super. 138, 141, 352 A.2d 472, 473-474 (1975), vacated on other grounds, 475 Pa. 187, 379 A.2d 1346 (1977).
"In order to determine whether an arbitration is one at common law or under the Arbitration Act, we examine the language in the contract and the procedure followed during the arbitration." Wingate Construction Co. v. Schweizer Dipple, Inc., 419 Pa. 74, 77, 213 A.2d 275, 276-277 (1965). See also: Runewicz v. Keystone Insurance Co., 476 Pa. 456, 460-461, 383 A.2d 189, 191 (1978). The language of the insurance policy submitted to the arbitrators in the case sub judice provided for arbitration according to, and the arbitrators in fact proceeded pursuant to, rules of the American Arbitration Association, which is to say, at common law. Compare: General Accident Fire and Life Assurance Corp. Ltd. v. Flamini, 299 Pa. Super. 312, 315, 445 A.2d 770, 772 (1982).
[ 316 Pa. Super. Page 143]
"The decision of the arbitrator in a common-law arbitration is binding and cannot be attacked unless it can be shown by clear, precise and indubitable evidence that a party was denied a hearing, or that there was fraud, misconduct, corruption or other irregularity which caused the rendition of an unjust, inequitable or unconscionable award." Smith v. Employer's Liability Assurance Corp., Ltd., 217 Pa. Super. 31, 33-34, 268 A.2d 200, 201 (1970) (collecting cases). See also: Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. v. Barbera, 443 Pa. 93, 95, 277 A.2d 821, 823 (1971); Friedman v. Friedman, 277 Pa. Super. 428, 431, 419 A.2d 1221, 1223 (1980); Reinhart v. State Automobile Insurance Co., 242 Pa. Super. 18, 23, 363 A.2d 1138, 1140 (1976); Owens v. Concord Mutual Insurance Co., 210 Pa. Super. 235, 239, 232 A.2d 14, 16 (1967). The arbitrators are the final judges of both law and fact, their award not being subject to reversal for a mistake of either. Runewicz v. Keystone Insurance Co., 476 Pa. 456, 461, 383 A.2d 189, ...