5th District Court of Appeals upholds arbitration confirmation in Southwest Securities case

By David Hutton | Jan 2, 2018

DALLAS – The Texas 5th District Court of Appeals has affirmed a ruling by the 44th Judicial District Court upholding a ruling confirming an arbitration award in a case involving Southwest Securities Inc.

The 5th District Court of Appeals opinion was written by Justice Ada Brown. Justices Elizabeth Lang-Miers and Jason Boatright concurred.

Carol Lee Craig had filed an appeal of a final judgment by the 44th Judicial District Court in Dallas County confirming an arbitration award.

In the appeal, Craig maintained that the trial court erred in dismissing her motion to vacate the arbitration award because she timely served notice of the motion. Even if the service was untimely, the trial court should have equitably tolled the deadline for service, she argued.

According to the Dec. 18, 2017, opinion, beginning in 2007, Craig had an investment account and an individual retirement account (IRA) with Southwest Securities Inc. and John C. Coyle served as her broker. During the first two years, her account lost value.

In July 2014, Craig filed an arbitration proceeding before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority alleging that SWS and Coyle had mismanaged her accounts and didn’t follow her investment goals, the suit states. Both sides had agreed that the arbitration dispute would be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act.

"Following a hearing, an arbitration panel entered an award denying all of Craig’s claims on March 18, 2016," according to the opinion.

On June 16, 2016, Craig filed a movant’s motion to vacate arbitration decision in the lower court. She alleged that the arbitrator was biased and false statements by SWS’ counsel tainted the process.

SWS and Coyle filed a motion asking the trial court to dismiss Craig’s motion to vacate and confirm the arbitration decision.

In their motion, SWS and Coyle maintained that Craig failed to properly serve her initial motion to dismiss on appellees within three months after the arbitration award was issued as required under the FAA.

Brown noted that Texas courts have determined that after a three-month statutory period has expired, a party can’t vacate an arbitration award for any reason.

The appeals court also rejected Craig’s argument that equitable tolling should be applied in the case.

“We affirm the trial court’s final judgment confirming the arbitration award,” Brown concluded.

Brown also ordered that SWS and Coyle recover their costs of the appeal from Craig.

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