Hilowitz v. Hilowitz
Issue Discussed: Res Judicata / Collateral Estoppel
Submitted by Aluyah I. Imoisili, H. Josh Ji*
Date Promulgated: December 14, 1981
Hilowitz v. Hilowitz, 85 A.D.2d 621 (2d Dep’t 1981)
Court: Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York
Issues Decided: Whether an arbitration award must be judicially confirmed in order to constitute a basis for collateral estoppel.
An automobile accident victim in an automobile accident submitted an insurance claim for personal injury, that was denied. The accident victim demanded arbitration against its insurer. The arbitrator issued an award, denying the insurance claim in its entirety. Neither party sought to confirm the arbitration award. When the accident victim instituted a negligence action in state court, the defendant raised collateral estoppel as an affirmative defense. The accident victim filed a motion to dismiss the affirmative defense, arguing that an arbitral award without judicial confirmation cannot serve as the basis for collateral estoppel. The trial court disagreed and denied the victim’s motion to dismiss.
The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s decision, and held the arbitrator’s unconfirmed award could serve as a basis for collateral estoppel or res judicata. The court explained that a judicial confirmation is a sufficient condition for preclusion and not a necessary one; thus, a final arbitral award—standing alone—can have preclusive effect.
An arbitration award need not be confirmed by a court to have preclusive effect in subsequent litigation.
* Aluyah I. Imoisili is a Partner and H. Josh Ji is an Associate at Greenberg Gross LLP, where they specialize in commercial litigation and arbitration.