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Saturday, March 29, 2008

SWH Funding Corp. v. Walden Printing Co., Inc,

03-17-08 A-0207-06T5

Under R. 4:21A-4(f), a party seeking to vacate a civil
arbitration award entered by default must establish both "good
cause" and a "meritorious defense." Although defense counsel's
neglect in failing to appear at the arbitration, and in failing
to be diligent in ascertaining the outcome of the proceeding,
constituted "good cause" under R. 4:21A-4(f), defendants failed,
to demonstrate a "meritorious defense." Rule 4:50-1(a) relief
is not available because inadvertence of counsel alone is
insufficient, as a matter of law, to establish "excusable
neglect."
In the context of adjudicating plaintiff's motion to
confirm the arbitration award, the trial court erroneously
increased the damage award entered by the arbitrator by
considering evidence not presented by plaintiff in the original
arbitration hearing. Under R. 4:21A-6(b)(3), the court's
authority in adjudicating a motion to confirm an arbitration
award is limited to reducing to judgment the amount of damages
found by the arbitrator, supplemented only by prejudgment
interest provided in R. 4:42-11(b).