County No. (PM 14-4568) Superior Court Jeffrey A. Lanphear
Plaintiff: Thomas R. Ricci, Esq. Michael S. Pezzulo, Esq.
Defendant: John J. Cloherty, Esq.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Suttell, Chief Justice.
plaintiff, David DiSano (DiSano), appeals from a Superior
Court order that denied his petition to vacate an arbitration
award; granted the petition of the defendant, Argonaut
Insurance Company (Argonaut), to confirm the arbitration
award; and granted Argonaut's motion to quash the
deposition subpoena of the dissenting arbitrator. This case
came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing
the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in
this appeal should not be summarily decided. After
considering the parties' written and oral submissions and
reviewing the record, we conclude that cause has not been
shown and that this case may be decided without further
briefing or argument. For the reasons set forth in this
opinion, we affirm the order of the Superior Court.
Facts and Travel
case concerns an automobile accident that occurred on April
14, 2010, involving DiSano and an individual named Justin
Lorello. At the time of the accident, DiSano was employed by
the Providence Water Supply Board (PWSB) and was operating a
PWSB-owned vehicle. DiSano sought underinsured-motorist
coverage through an insurance policy issued by Argonaut to
PWSB. Because the policy contained an
arbitration provision, the parties executed an
arbitration-submission agreement in which they agreed that
the Superior Court Rules Governing Arbitration of Civil
Actions would apply.
two-day hearing was conducted before a panel of three
arbitrators. On August 25, 2014, a majority of the
arbitrators issued a decision that found in favor of
Argonaut; one arbitrator dissented from the decision. The
majority found Lorello liable for the April 14, 2010
accident. The majority also found that: (1) Lorello's
insurer, Liberty Insurance Company, had paid DiSano $25, 000,
the policy limit; (2) DiSano's insurer, Metropolitan
Property and Casualty Insurance Company, had paid DiSano $25,
000, the underinsured-motorist coverage policy limit; and (3)
the workers' compensation insurer for PWSB, Liberty
Mutual, had paid DiSano $258, 303 in workers'
compensation benefits. Consequently, the majority determined
that Argonaut was entitled to an offset of $308, 303 from any
damages awarded to DiSano in the arbitration, which it
calculated by adding the aforementioned insurance payments
and workers' compensation benefits received by DiSano.
majority further found that DiSano "had significant
pre-existing hip and low back conditions which pre-dated the
subject accident[, ]" and that the accident marginally
aggravated these conditions. The majority determined that the
medical testimony demonstrated that the accident exacerbated
DiSano's low-back condition for approximately three
months, but that hip replacement surgery that he underwent on
February 23, 2011, after the accident, "was not causally
related to the accident." The majority concluded that
DiSano was entitled to damages for three months with respect
to reasonable pain and suffering, medical expenses, and lost
wages. However, because the majority also found that
DiSano's damages were less than the $308, 303 offset
amount to which it had determined Argonaut was entitled,
"judgment" was entered in favor of Argonaut.
September 16, 2014, DiSano filed a petition in the Superior
Court to vacate the arbitration award, pursuant to G.L. 1956
§ 10-3-12. Argonaut objected to DiSano's petition
and brought a cross-petition to confirm the arbitration
award, pursuant to § 10-3-11. On November 13, 2015,
DiSano filed a notice to depose the dissenting arbitrator.
Argonaut moved to quash the deposition subpoena pursuant to
Rules 26(c) and 45(c)(3) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil
Procedure. It maintained that: (1) Superior Court Arbitration
Rule 5(f) prohibits the deposition of an arbitrator; (2)
common law provides arbitrators with quasi-judicial immunity;
and (3) there is no factual or legal basis to depose the
dissenting arbitrator. DiSano objected to the motion to
January 21, 2016, a hearing was held before a justice of the
Superior Court on the parties' pending petitions and
Argonaut's motion to quash. DiSano explained, in support
of his petition to vacate the arbitration award, that he was
relying on the fourth ground provided in § 10-3-12,
which mandates that an arbitration award must be vacated
"[w]here 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."
Section 10-3-12(4). DiSano noted that he was not disputing
that Argonaut was entitled to an offset; however, he
maintained that the majority had miscalculated the offset
amount. Specifically, DiSano asserted that the arbitrators
miscalculated the amount because they did not subtract from
his workers' compensation benefits the amount that was
attributable to his hip replacement. DiSano argued that
"a substantial portion of that $308,  * * *
included the hip replacement surgery [and] the lost wages
incurred as a result of the hip replacement surgery."
response, Argonaut first noted the limited review of
arbitration awards and the "strong public policy in
favor of arbitration awards." It asserted that, although
DiSano was attempting to challenge the adequacy of the award
by arguing that the award was miscalculated, the purported
inadequacy of an arbitration award is not a ground upon which
the courts can vacate an arbitration award.
respect to Argonaut's motion to quash the deposition
subpoena, DiSano explained that he sought to depose the
dissenting arbitrator to ascertain why the majority, in
calculating the offset, had included certain amounts that he
had received. However, Argonaut argued that DiSano's
attempt to depose the dissenting arbitrator violated ...