Two Arbitration-Related Appeals for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court announced that it has granted certification in two new appeals. Those cases each involve arbitration, though in differing respects.

In County of Passaic v. Horizon Healthcare Services, Inc., the question presented, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s office, is “Under the circumstances presented, was the arbitration clause unenforceable under Atalese v. U.S. Legal Services Group, L.P., 219 N.J. 430 (2014), because it lacked an explicit waiver of the right to seek relief in a court of law?” In an unpublished opinion, a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division affirmed the ruling of the Law Division that enforced the arbitration clause, on the grounds that “even though the arbitration provision does lack such an explicit waiver, the County is a sophisticated contracting party and is not – as in Atalese and other authorities – an employee or consumer lacking sufficient bargaining power to resist the extraction of an agreement to arbitrate.” The panel did, however, modify the Law Division’s decision to the limited extent of staying the case rather than dismissing it as the Law Division had.

Sanjuan v. School District of West New York, Hudson County presents this question: “Does an arbitrator have authority to demote an employee under the Tenure Employees Hearing Law, N.J.S.A. 18A:6-10 and N.J.S.A. 18A:6-16, and if not, on remand in this matter, is the arbitrator precluded from considering dismissal as a penalty?” In an opinion reported at 473 N.J. Super. 416 (App. Div. 2022), a panel of three Appellate Division judges ruled that the arbitrator lacked authority to demote the employee and that the arbitrator could not, on remand, terminate the employee.