CENTRAL CEILINGS, INC.
SUFFOLK CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, INC., & others.
Heard: January 10, 2018.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on January
motion to confirm an arbitration award was heard by Peter M.
Lauriat, J., and a motion to correct and confirm as corrected
or to vacate an arbitration award was heard by Linda E.
R. Mordarski (Margaret Capp also present) for the plaintiff.
Lewin (John P. Connelly also present) for the defendants.
Present: Blake, Neyman, & Ditkoff, JJ.
parties submitted a construction dispute, pending in
litigation in the Superior Court, to arbitration under the
Uniform Arbitration Act, G. L. c. 251, §§ 1 et seq.
The arbitrator issued a substantial award in favor of the
plaintiff, Central Ceilings, Inc., but purported to reserve
the calculation of preaward interest to a Superior Court
judge. The parties did not agree to this reservation. On the
plaintiff's motion to confirm the arbitration award, the
judge (remanding judge) remanded the matter to the arbitrator
for the calculation of preaward interest. After the
arbitrator awarded preaward interest well below that
requested by the plaintiff, the plaintiff moved to correct or
to vacate that award. The plaintiff now appeals from the
order denying that motion. Concluding that an arbitrator may
not reserve the calculation of preaward interest for a judge
without the agreement of the parties, and finding no error in
the failure to award attorney's fees, we affirm.
plaintiff was a subcontractor to defendant Suffolk
Construction Company, Inc. (Suffolk), the general contractor,
in a project for the renovation and construction converting
the old Charles Street jail in Boston into the Liberty
Hotel. On January 31, 2008, the plaintiff
commenced an action in Superior Court against the defendants,
raising various claims arising out of its subcontract with
Suffolk. After discovery and pretrial proceedings, the
parties filed a joint motion to stay the case in favor of
resolving the dispute through arbitration. On October 8,
2013, the parties entered into an arbitration agreement
governed by the Uniform Arbitration Act, G. L. c. 251,
§§ 1 et seq., expressly incorporating the
Construction Industry Arbitration Rules of the American
Arbitration Association. The arbitration agreement reached
"all relevant issues appertaining" to the civil
lawsuit and granted the arbitrator "full power and
authority to award money damages and to grant such other
relief, including without limitation reasonable
attorney's fees and any other contractually authorized
damages as he, in his sole discretion, shall deem just and
proper" "[t]o the same extent as if he were a
justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court." A judge
allowed the motion and stayed the case during the pendency of
extensive arbitration proceedings, the arbitrator issued an
initial award on the merits in favor of the plaintiff in a
decision dated February 20, 2015, in the amount of $1, 324,
819.24, "with interest thereon in the amount ultimately
assessed by the Court, " plus attorney's fees and
costs as set out in the subcontract between the
parties filed timely cross motions with the arbitrator
requesting modification, correction, and clarification of the
initial award. The arbitrator denied the defendants'
motion and allowed the plaintiff's motion. The modified
award, dated April 6, 2015, changed the award only to require
an additional interest calculation. It continued to reserve
the task of calculating interest on the $1, 324, 819.24 award
to a judge, but also required that judge to calculate
interest on a payment of $402, 852 already made by Suffolk
shortly after the parties agreed to arbitration and prior to
April 15, 2015, the defendants moved in Superior Court to
vacate the arbitrator's award. The defendants soon
reconsidered, paid the modified award plus postaward interest
on June 24, 2015, and then withdrew their motion to vacate.
Meanwhile, the parties were unable to agree on the
attorney's fees and costs owed to the plaintiff. The
arbitrator awarded attorney's fees and costs on July 20,
2015, which Suffolk paid within one month.
parties, however, continued to dispute the issue of preaward
(as opposed to postaward) interest, as neither the initial
nor the modified award expressly stated that the interest to
be calculated by a judge included preaward interest. The
plaintiff maintained that the arbitrator either explicitly or
implicitly awarded preaward interest from the commencement of
the suit at the statutory rate of twelve percent, see G. L.
c. 231, § 6C, and that the judge had ...