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STS Refills, LLC v. Rivers Printing Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

March 27, 2014

STS REFILLS, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
RIVERS PRINTING SOLUTIONS, INC., THOMAS E. RIVERS, and CATHY RIVERS, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KIM R. GIBSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

I. SYNOPSIS

Before the Court are Defendants’ motion to vacate the arbitration award (ECF No. 41) and Plaintiff’s motion to confirm the arbitration award (ECF No. 44). Defendants contend that the arbitration award must be vacated because the arbitrator failed to render an award within the timeline provided in the Franchise Arbitration and Mediation Services Guidelines. Plaintiff asserts that the delay did not prejudice Defendants and that the award must be confirmed. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motion to vacate will be DENIED and Plaintiff’s motion to confirm will be GRANTED.

II. JURSIDICTION AND VENUE

The Court has jurisdiction in this diversity case under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a)(2) and (b).[1]

III. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a company that grants and manages franchises for Cartridge World, a chain retail establishment. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 9-11). Defendants operated two Cartridge World retail stores under two separate franchise agreements with Plaintiff: (1) a store in Wilmington, North Carolina; and (2) a store in Belleville, North Carolina. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13). The pending motions in this case involve only the Belleville franchise agreement, which the parties executed on November 14, 2007. (ECF No. 41 ¶ 4; ECF No. 41-1).

According to Plaintiff, beginning in 2009, Defendants “began a pattern of failing to fulfill many of their obligations” under the franchise agreements, which constituted “substantial breaches” of both franchise agreements. (ECF No. 1 at 2; ¶ 19). The Belleville Agreement includes a dispute resolution provision, permitting, among other things, that disputes may be submitted to arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), 9 U.S.C. § 4. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 28).

In an effort to resolve the dispute that arose out of Defendants’ alleged breach of the Belleville Agreement, Plaintiff filed a complaint to compel arbitration on February 10, 2010. (ECF No. 1). On April 20, 2010, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 7) the complaint for improper venue pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), which the Court denied on March 29, 2011 (ECF No. 17). Defendants then filed an answer (ECF No. 18) to the complaint on April 12, 2011, after which the parties conducted discovery.

On January 5, 2012, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the Court for an order compelling arbitration under both franchise agreements. (ECF No. 20). On September 13, 2012, the Court entered an order granting the motion in part and denying the motion in part. (ECF No. 26). Relevant to the instant motions, the Court ordered the parties to arbitrate the dispute related to the Belleville Agreement. (Id. at 20).[2]

On March 26, 2013, Franchise Arbitration and Mediation Services (“FAM”) conducted arbitration between the parties concerning the dispute under the Belleville Agreement. (ECF No. 41 ¶¶ 8, 9). Both parties filed post arbitration briefs by April 25, 2013, the deadline set by the arbitrator. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 12). The arbitrator issued a final invoice of fees on April 23, 2013, which the parties timely paid. (ECF No. 41-5)

On June 18, 2013, Defendants sent a letter to the arbitrator and to FAM objecting to any continuance of the arbitration. (ECF No. 41-6). The arbitrator responded that day, indicating that the delay was due to the need to conduct additional research, and that the award would be “finalized and submitted to the parties this week.” (ECF No. 41-7). The arbitrator entered an award on June 19, 2013, in favor of Plaintiff and against Defendants. (ECF No. 46-1). The parties received the award on June 24, 2013. (ECF No. 41 ¶ 23).

On July 15, 2013, Defendants filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award (ECF No. 41), and a brief in support on August 14, 2013 (ECF No. 46). Plaintiff filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award (ECF No. 44) on August 13, 2013, along with a brief in support (ECF No. 45). The ...


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