Alternative Dispute Resolution
Arbitrator’s $22M Award Tossed Because of Social Contacts with Fish & Richardson Partner
Posted Jun 30, 2011 8:25 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A Texas appeals court has overturned an arbitrator’s $22 million award because of his social contacts with the Fish & Richardson lawyer whose client won the case.
The court said JAMS arbitrator Robert Faulkner, a former federal magistrate judge, should have disclosed the relationship with the lawyer, Brett Johnson, report Thomson Reuters News & Insight and the Texas Lawyer blog Tex Parte.
Faulkner and Johnson “acted as strangers” and introduced themselves at the beginning of the arbitration hearing, the court said in its June 28 opinion. But evidence showed the men had attended a Mavericks game and had dined together along with their wives.
Shortly before the arbitration hearing, Fish & Richardson changed its fee agreement with the client to a contingency contract, resulting in a $6 million fee award. The court also overturned the fee, Reuters says.
Johnson told Tex Parte he respectfully disagrees with the standards set by the court. “Over the course of 15 years, I went to three dinners and a Mavericks game,” he said. “I think to term that an intimate relationship given the span of time is just not appropriate.” He added that “this idea that Faulkner and I introduced ourselves as strangers just did not happen.”