The Herald, Sharon, Pa.


November 5, 2013

Court affirms local arbitration award against eatery owners

HERMITAGE — Superior Court said Friday that a local judge properly confirmed an arbitration award against the owners of a Hermitage eatery.

UniFirst Corp., Wilmington, Mass., said it signed a contract Nov. 10, 2010, to provide shirts, napkins, towels, mats, mops and aprons to Jerry Sovesky and Andrew Mudrinich of La Bella Cena, 3200 S. Hermitage Road.

After a dispute arose, the parties went to arbitration and the arbiter on Dec. 16, 2011, awarded UniFirst $41,478 for breach of contract, along with a portion of the arbitration fees.

UniFirst sued Feb. 24, 2012, in Mercer County Common Pleas Court alleging La Bella Cena has not paid the arbitration award.

Judge Robert G. Yeatts denied UniFirst’s request to confirm the arbitration award but allowed the company to refile it, which it did April 30, 2012.

The La Bella Cena owners filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award on April 24, 2012.

After hearings and the filing of briefs, Yeatts confirmed the award January 4, saying La Bella Cena’s owners had 30 days from the date they received a copy of the arbiter’s award to file their petition to vacate. Although there was no evidence as to what date the owners learned of the award, their attorney participated in a conference on the matter March 5, 2012, more than 30 days before the April 24, 2012, filing date, Yeatts said.

Sovesky and Mudrinich appealed, alleging four errors by Yeatts, but a three-judge panel of Superior Court agreed with Yeatts without addressing those issues.

“Our review ... confirms (Yeatts’) determination that La Bella Cena’s petition was untimely and, therefore, UniFirst is entitled to confirmation of the arbitration award,” said Judge Paula Francisco Ott, writing for the panel.

Sovesky and Mudrinich argued that federal law and New York law should have been applied in this case, Ott said. However, the state Supreme Court has said federal law, with a 90-day window for filing a petition to vacate, does not pre-empt the 30-day rule under state law, she said.

The argument concerning New York law was “undeveloped and is therefore waived,” Ott said.

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