This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Mutual Service Casualty Ins. Co.,
Filed February 27, 2001
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Stearns County District Court
File No. C0991702
Timothy W. Nelson, Nelson Personal Injury Attorneys, Suite 400, 1010 West St. Germain, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (for respondent)
Richard J. Kruger, Moore, Warner & Kruger, Two Pine Tree Drive, St. Paul, MN 55112 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Willis, Judge, and Foley, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Appellant Mutual Service Casualty Ins. Co. appeals from a denial of its motion to vacate an arbitration award. Appellant argues that the arbitrator was disqualified for "evident partiality" because he was actively engaged in pending litigation against appellant. Because the arbitrator’s conduct did not constitute “evident partiality”, we affirm.
D E C I S I O N
An appeal from an arbitration decision is subject to limited review and the reviewing court must exercise “[e]very reasonable presumption” in favor of the arbitration’s finality and validity. State, Office of State Auditor v. Minnesota Ass’n of Prof’l Employees, 504 N.W.2d 751, 754 (Minn. 1993) (citation omitted). Whether the conduct constitutes evident partiality is a question of law, subject to de novo review. Pirsig v. Pleasant Mound Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 512 N.W.2d 342, 343 (Minn. App. 1994). Evident partiality includes contacts between an arbitrator and a party, or between arbitrators, that might create an impression of possible bias. Id. at 344 (citations omitted).
Appellant argues that Richard Pearson’s participation as arbitrator created an appearance of impropriety and evident partiality because he had and was representing clients against appellant at the time of the arbitration. To vacate an arbitrator’s award for a conflict of interest, there must be some evidence to indicate that the relationship affected the arbitrator’s decision. Ronning v. Citizens Sec. Mut. Ins. Co., 557 N.W.2d 363, 366-67 (Minn. App. 1996).
Prior to his appointment by the American Arbitration Association as a neutral arbitrator in this case, Pearson disclosed that he knew appellant’s attorney, and that he had and was representing clients in lawsuits against appellant. Additionally, Pearson stated that he could remain fair and impartial in deciding the case. The trial court found that Pearson’s past and current representation of clients against appellant did not rise to an impression of possible bias. Pearson was not a party to the present action nor had he been. Appellant only relies on the fact that Pearson had and was representing clients against appellant, and theorizes that by driving up the average arbitration award, the arbitrator makes it likely that his or her own cases will receive greater compensation. Appellant has brought forth no evidence to show that Pearson’s unrelated professional relationship with appellant affected the outcome or that appellant has been prejudiced by the outcome.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.