Review of Court Decisions - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 48, No. 1
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
COMMERCIAL- ATTORNEY FEES-ARBITRATION AWARD-ARBITRATION AGREEMENTPUBLIC POLICY -GEORGIA
The court held that Georgia does not prohibit parties to an arbitration agreement from contracting for the recovery of attorneys' fees in arbitration proceedings.
Hope & Associates, Inc. and Marvin M. Black Company were parties to an arbitration agreement. Their contract specifically provided for the recovery of attorneys' fees in arbitration proceedings. A dispute was submitted to arbitration which resulted in an award that included recovery for attorneys' fees. The award was confirmed, and an appeal was filed. The appellant urged that, as a matter of law, attorneys' fees cannot be awarded in arbitration proceedings.
The issue before the court is whether the provision regarding attorneys' fees in the parties' contract is prohibited by statute or public policy. The court found that there is "no general public policy against contracting for the recovery of attorneys' fees." "Indeed," the court noted, "the public policy of this state favors enforcement of the terms of an arbitration agreement . ... If the parties contract for attorneys' fees, that agreement will be enforced." The court also found that there is no statutory prohibition "on the right of parties to an arbitration agreement to contract for the recovery of attorneys' fees in arbitration proceedings." It rejected the appellant's claim that Ga. Code Ann.§ 9-9-17 provides such a prohibition, determining that the section "merely addresses the allocation of the expenses of arbitration other than attorneys' fees ... " In accordance with its findings, the court affirmed the lower court's confirmation of the award. Hope & Associates, Inc. v. Marvin M. Black Company, 422 S.E. 2d 918 (Ga. 1992).