Domingo v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority – Case Brief Summary (California)

In Domingo v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 550, the arbitrator made an award in favor of the plaintiff, but mailed the defendant's copy of the award to "8655 South Figueroa, Los Angeles, instead of the correct address at 865 South Figueroa, Los Angeles." (Domingo, supra, 74 Cal.App.4th at p. 552.)

"The post office returned the misaddressed envelope to the arbitrator, who, instead of correcting his typographical error, remailed the award to appellant's attorneys at their former address at 221 North Figueroa Street, Los Angeles." (Ibid.)

The arbitration award was served with the first incorrect address on June 24, 1998, and filed with the court the next day. The opinion does not mention the date on which the award was mailed the second time (to the defendant's former and second incorrect address). The defendant's attorneys learned of the award on July 24, 1998 (a Friday) when it was "received that day at their old offices" and they "immediately retrieved it." (Ibid.)

The defendant attempted to file a request for trial de novo on Tuesday, July 28, but the court rejected it because the court had already entered a judgment on the award. The defendant's motion to set aside the judgment was denied by the trial court. By the time of the Domingo case the time within which to request a trial de novo had been increased from 20 days to 30 days. But the legal concepts were the same. The arbitration award "was never properly served." (Id. at p. 555.)

The first mailing was returned to the sender, and the second mailing was delivered to an address that was no longer the address of the defendant's attorneys. Both the first mailing of the award and the second mailing were to an incorrect address. "We find that in the absence of proper service, appellant's 30 days for filing a request for trial de novo did not begin until appellant received actual notice of the arbitrator's award.... Here, appellant's attorneys did not receive actual notice of the award until they picked up their mail at their former offices on July 24, 1998. Because appellant filed its request for trial de novo four days later, its request was well within thirty days." (Id. at p. 554.)

The trial court thus "erred in denying appellant's motion to vacate the judgment and grant a trial de novo." (Id. at pp. 554-555.)

Nothing in Domingo stands for the proposition that notice of an arbitration award sent to a party at an address the party actually occupies, and received by the party at that address, constitutes an "absence of proper service."