Arbitration Prevailing Party Fees Appeal In California

In Creative Plastering, Inc. v. Hedley Builders, Inc. (1993), 19 Cal. App. 4th 1662, two contractors entered a contract with an attorney fees clause. The arbitrator awarded one of the parties his attorney fees. Following arbitration, the losing party appealed, arguing that the arbitrator exceed his powers because the party to whom he awarded attorney fees "could not legally and factually be the 'prevailing party' in the underlying action." (19 Cal. App. 4th at p. 1665.) Although the trial court agreed with this argument, the Court of Appeal reversed. The reviewing court stated that "the lower court erred because it lacked the authority to reverse or modify the arbitrator's prevailing party finding, which constituted a ruling on an issue the arbitrator was authorized to decide." (Id. at p. 1666.)