Special Arbitration, a long-existing, highly efficient and cost-effective venue for resolving workers’ compensation subrogation liens, is being challenged as an appropriate forum in which to resolve lien disputes. As a result, Special Arbitration may soon be an unavailable forum for workers’ compensation insurance carriers and employers in some states.
In Atlanta Flooring Design Centers, Inc. v. R.G. Williams Construction, Inc., — S.E.2d –, 2015 WL 4311070 (Ga. App. July 16, 2015), the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed the validity of a contract clause in a construction contract. In the contract, R.G. Williams Construction, Inc. (“Williams”), the general contractor, and Atlanta Flooring Design Centers, Inc. (“AFDC”) agreed to arbitrate any disputes related to the contract. In addition, Williams and AFDC expressly agreed “not to challenge the validity of the arbitration or the award.” The court, relying in part on analogous federal arbitration law, held that the clause – precluding judicial review of an arbitration award – altered Georgia’s statutory arbitration scheme, frustrated Georgia’s public policy and was void and unenforceable.