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Pillari Brothers Contracting Company, Inc. v. Berkeley Township Sewerage Authority

A-1343-00T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2001) (Unpublished)

ARBITRATION—A party’s attorney is assumed to know that a court rule requires that requests for judicial review of arbitration awards be made within 30 days after the award whether or not the arbitrator announces that rule at the hearing.

A contractor sued a municipal sewer authority for monied owed on a municipal construction contract. During a pre-trial conference, the lower court ordered the case to be assigned to mandatory non-binding arbitration. The arbitrator made a finding in favor of the contractor. The contractor, not satisfied with the amount of the arbitration award, made a motion for a trial de novo. In response, the lower court ruled that since the contractor did not file the request for the new trial with the appropriate filing fee within thirty days of the arbitration award, it was not entitled to a new trial. The decision was based on the arbitrator’s certification that he advised the parties that if they were not satisfied with the arbitration results they had to file the request for a trial de novo within thirty days from the date of the arbitration award. The contractor disputed the arbitrator’s certification and claimed that no statement was made about the thirty day deadline. The award form did not contain the notice provision required by the court rules. The lower court found that notice of the thirty day requirement was given at the arbitration hearing, and that the attorneys should know the rule anyway. The Appellate Division, however, held that assumptions of an attorney’s common knowledge about court rules and the notice provision, could not, under these facts, prevent the contractor from seeking a trial de novo. The Court ruled that the arbitration award was defective because it did not contain the notice provision and that it should not have been confirmed.

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