Monday, December 15, 2014

Arbitrators Can Decide Ripeness

Bunker Hill Park Ltd. v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Assoc., No. B256822 (D2d4 Nov. 26, 2014)

A commercial landlord filed a petition to compel its tenant into an arbitration in order to seek declaratory relief involving a lease dispute. The trial court denied the petition, reasoning that declaratory relief was unavailable because the parties’ dispute hadn’t sufficiently ripened into an actual controversy. But, the court here says, ripeness is a jusiciability concept that applies to a judicial forum. Parties are free to agree to arbitrate unripe controversies. So unless the matter falls outside of the scope of the parties agreement to arbitrate, there isn’t a freestanding justiciablity exception to an otherwise valid arbitration agreement. Here, the parties’ agreement was very broad. Nothing in it suggests that the arbitrator would be limited to deciding ripe controversies, and thus that unripe ones aren
’t arbitrable. Of course, the tenant is free to argue in the arbitration, that there isn’t enough of an actual controversy to merit an award of declaratory relief under Code of Civil Procedure § 1060. But that’s a merits argument it can make to the arbitrator.

Reversed.

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