Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Judge Nealon of Lackawanna County Weighs Right-To-Know Law Against Arbitration Clause in Contract Dispute

In his recent September 17, 2013 Opinion in the case of Mid Valley School District v. Warshawer, No. 13-CV-1528 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Sept. 17, 2013 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon issued a Right-To-Know decision involving a contract dispute and arbitration language.

The school district in this case objected to the Right-To-Know Law (RTKL) requests that had been submitted by the attorney for a contractor that was involved in a payment dispute with the school district.

The school district argued that the parties' contract called for binding arbitration of all claims and barred any document discovery except to the extent that the arbitrator ordered the parties to produce specific documents. The district contended that the RTKL requests sought pre-arbitration discovery that was prohibited by their arbitration agreement, and maintained that the contractor could not circumvent that contractual discovery restriction by obtaining documents via a RTKL request.

Concisely, Judge Nealon held that the RTKL superseded any discovery limitation contained in the arbitration agreement, even if it resulted in extra-contractual, pre-arbitration discovery for the contractor.

Arguably, this ruling could impact any arbitrations involving a governmental defendant whose insurance policy contains arbitration provisions with discovery limitations .

Anyone wishing to review Judge Nealon's Opinion in the Mid Valley School District v. Warshawer case may click this LINK.

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