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Jennifer Drew, Claimant v. James A. Herron

April 15, 2013

JENNIFER DREW, CLAIMANT, RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES A. HERRON, APPELLANT.



Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CV-12-1762

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Larkin, Judge

This opinion will be unpublished and may not be cited except as provided by Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2012).

Affirmed

Considered and decided by Larkin, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Rodenberg, Judge.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION LARKIN, Judge

In this pro se appeal, appellant challenges the district court's confirmation of an arbitration award of $8,950 to respondent. Appellant makes the following arguments on appeal: the district court erred by confirming the arbitrator's award without review, the award is not supported by the evidence, the arbitrator was partial toward respondent, and appellant signed the arbitration agreement without informed consent. Appellant also requests misconduct sanctions for spoliation. Respondent requests attorney fees. We affirm the district court's confirmation of the arbitration award, but we deny the parties' requests for sanctions and fees.

FACTS

In June 2010, appellant James Herron and respondent Jennifer Drew entered into a real estate purchase agreement, whereby appellant agreed to sell respondent residential property located at 1837 Minnehaha Avenue West in St. Paul. Prior to selling the property to respondent, appellant installed a new roof on the house. According to a residential real property arbitration agreement executed along with the purchase agreement, the parties agreed to settle any dispute arising out of the purchase agreement by arbitration.

On July 18, 2011, respondent filed an arbitration claim with the National Center for Dispute Settlement, claiming $18,830.11 in damages for faulty construction and misleading advertising. Respondent sought $13,800 for roof, fascia boards, and gutter repairs and replacements, $450 for insulation work, $3,574.63 for air-conditioning repairs and replacement, and $1,005.48 for garage-door opener replacement and installation. Appellant opposed respondent's claim, arguing that (1) he could not defend himself because of spoliation of evidence, (2) he could have made any necessary repairs more affordably, (3) the air-conditioning system was operational at the time of the sale, and (4) respondent had prior notice of the defective garage-door opener.

Following an arbitration hearing, an arbitrator awarded respondent $8,950, including $6,000 for roof replacement, $1,000 for renailing fascia boards, $450 for repairing or replacing insulation, and $1,500 in arbitration fees. The roof-replacement award was based on the arbitrator's finding that the roof shingles had been installed incorrectly, causing a major defect in the roof. In so finding, the arbitrator relied on the testimony and reports of city inspector Ken Eggers, inspector Thomas Stone, and roofer George Hulinsky, which the arbitrator found to be credible and believable. The arbitrator considered appellant's spoliation defense but concluded that respondent did not have a legal obligation to allow appellant to inspect and repair her roof and that appellant was not prejudiced "to the extent claimed" by respondent's failure to do so. The arbitrator declined to award respondent the remainder of her claim for roof repair and replacement, finding that the expenses were either unnecessary or for upgrades.

The award for renailing fascia boards was based on the arbitrator's finding that the fascia boards were improperly attached. In so finding, the arbitrator once again relied on the testimony and reports of Eggers, Stone, and Hulinsky. But because it was unnecessary to replace the fascia boards entirely, the arbitrator only awarded $1,000 for the costs of adding additional nails to attach and reattach existing boards. The arbitrator also awarded respondent $450 to repair or replace insulation based on his finding that the attic insulation was not properly installed. The arbitrator denied respondent's remaining claims, finding that respondent failed to prove her claim for gutter repair or replacement, that the air conditioning was operational at the time of the sale, and that respondent had prior notice that the garage-door opener did not function.

On March 2, 2012, respondent moved the district court to confirm the arbitration award and enter judgment against appellant in the amount of $8,950. By memorandum dated May 2, respondent argued that the arbitrator considered all of the evidence, that the arbitrator did not commit misconduct or act with partiality, and that the award was not procured by corruption, fraud, or other undue means. By affidavit dated May 21, appellant argued that the arbitrator failed to consider his spoliation argument, improperly credited Hulinsky's testimony, misunderstood respondent's fascia claim, and improperly conducted the arbitration hearing without breaks.

At the conclusion of a hearing on respondent's motion, the district court adopted the arbitrator's findings and confirmed the award of $8,950, finding no basis to vacate the award. The district court also ...


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