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Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc. v. Boxill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 8, 2019

Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc. and Comerica Bank & Trust, N.A., as Personal Representative of the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson, Plaintiffs,
v.
George Ian Boxill; Rogue Music Alliance, LLC; Deliverance, LLC; David Staley; Gabriel Solomon Wilson; and Sidebar Legal, PC, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO CONFIRM ARBITRATION AWARD AND ENTER FINAL JUDGMENT

          WILHELMINA M. WRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are cross motions to vacate and to confirm an arbitration award that was issued by Arbitrator Hon. Kathleen A. Blatz on August 31, 2018. Defendant George Ian Boxill moves to vacate the award, (Dkt. 365), and Plaintiffs move to confirm the award and enter final judgment, (Dkt. 397). For the reasons addressed below, the Court confirms the arbitration award and enters final judgment as described herein.

         BACKGROUND

         This matter pertains to the previously unreleased recordings of Prince Rogers Nelson (Prince), who died in April 2016. Plaintiffs are Paisley Park Enterprises, Inc., and Comerica Bank & Trust, N.A., as Personal Representative of the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson. Defendant Boxill is a sound engineer who worked with Prince during his recording career. The other Defendants include Rogue Music Alliance, LLC; Deliverance, LLC; David Staley; Gabriel Solomon Wilson; and Sidebar Legal, PC. Plaintiffs contend that Defendants unlawfully possess and have attempted to exploit commercially several sound recordings of Prince.

         Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit in April 2017, asserting breach-of-contract, conversion, and copyright claims. Plaintiffs filed a demand for arbitration of the breach-of-contract and conversion claims, which correspond to Counts 2 and 3 of Plaintiffs' third amended complaint. Boxill moved to enjoin the arbitration, arguing that copyright law preempted arbitration of the breach-of-contract and conversion claims. But the Court denied Boxill's motion to enjoin the proceedings. The Arbitrator conducted an evidentiary hearing and determined that copyright law did not preempt the matter. The Arbitrator issued an interim award in favor of Plaintiffs as to their breach-of-contract and conversion claims and held that the Prince Estate was entitled to damages and the return of the disputed recordings. The final award, issued on August 31, 2018, includes additional relief to Plaintiffs for reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. Now pending before the Court are cross motions to vacate and confirm the arbitration award.

         ANALYSIS

         I. Arbitration Award

         Boxill seeks to vacate, and Plaintiffs seek to confirm, the arbitration award. When reviewing an arbitration award, a district court affords “an extraordinary” degree of deference to the underlying award. Stark v. Sandberg, Phoenix & von Gontard, P.C., 381 F.3d 793, 798 (8th Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Bhd. of Maint. of Way Emps. v. Terminal R.R. Ass'n, 307 F.3d 737, 739 (8th Cir. 2002) (observing that “scope of review of the arbitration award itself is among the narrowest known to the law”). A court may vacate an arbitration award only:

(1) where the award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means;
(2) where there was evident partiality or corruption in the arbitrators, or either of them;
(3) where the arbitrators were guilty of misconduct in refusing to postpone the hearing, upon sufficient cause shown, or in refusing to hear evidence pertinent and material to the controversy; or of any other misbehavior by which the rights of any party have been prejudiced; or
(4) where the arbitrators exceeded their powers, or so imperfectly executed them that a mutual, final, and definite award upon the subject matter submitted was not made.

9 U.S.C. § 10(a). Even if an arbitrator makes an error of law or fact, the error does not constitute an arbitrator exceeding her powers. See Beumer Corp. v. ProEnergy Servs., LLC, 899 F.3d 564, 566 (8th Cir. 2018) (“The parties bargained for the arbitrator's decision; if the arbitrator got it wrong, then that was part of the bargain.”). When a district court does not vacate or modify the arbitration award, the court must confirm the award. 9 U.S.C. § 9.

         Section 10 contains the exclusive bases for vacating an arbitration award. See HallStreet Assocs., L.L.C. v. Mattel, Inc., 552 U.S. 576, 584-86 (2008) (interpreting 9 U.S.C. § 10). After the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in Hall Street, the Eighth Circuit no longer recognizes the judicially created “manifest disregard” basis for vacatur, which allowed a district court to vacate an arbitration award when an arbitrator exhibited a manifest disregard of the law. See Beumer, 899 F.3d at 566 (stating that “manifest disregard of the law is not a ground on which a court may reject an arbitrator's award under the Federal Arbitration Act” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Air Line Pilots Ass'n Int'l v. Trans States Airlines, LLC, 638 F.3d 572, 578 (8th Cir. 2011) (“We have since explained [that] the Supreme Court's decision in [Hall Street] eliminated judicially created vacatur standards under the FAA, including manifest disregard for the law.” (internal citation omitted)); Med. Shoppe ...


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