Be Neutral
A Publication of the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution

Case Watch: For Arbitrators

Awards Confirmation Deadlines Not Tolled by Clarification Requests

The Georgia Arbitration Code requires that an arbitration award must be confirmed by filing with the courts within one year of the delivery of the award, unless the award is vacated or modified.  See O.C.G.A. § 9-9-12. The Georgia Court of Appeals refused to overturn this time limit in a recent case that asked the Georgia courts to recognize a tolling of this time period where a trial court issued an order directing the parties to seek clarification of the arbitrator award just over the one year time period.

In Riddick v. Williams & Bowling Developers, LLC A11A0887 (09/14/11), the appellants filed a suit in January 2006.  The appellees filed a motion to compel arbitration, which was granted.  After a hearing, the arbitrator issued an award dated April 7, 2007, in favor of the claimants but without assessment of damages against the individual respondents.

On April 21, 2008, more than a year after the date of the award, the trial court directed the parties to seek a clarification from the arbitrator on individual liability.  The arbitrator issued a response dated May 28, 2008, indicating that he had considered individual liability and rejected the claim.  The appellants did not receive this response until May 6, 2009, and they then filed on January 7, 2010, to confirm the award, three years after the initial date of delivery.

The trial court denied the appellants’ claim that the one-year statutory period should be tolled. The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial, stating “this one-year limitations period by the prevailing party to an arbitration proceeding is not option … timely filing is a prerequisite [] to maintaining an arbitration confirmation action.”

The appeals court went on to say that the trial court’s order to seek a clarification “in no way changes this result.”  Noting that the court’s order on clarification occurred after the expiration of the one year period, the court said that O.C.G.A. § 9-9-12 provides for only two means of tolling the deadline for a prevailing party, i.e. “unless the award is vacated or modified by the court as provided in this part.”  See Hardin Constr. Group, Inc. v. Fuller Enters., Inc., 265 Ga. 770,772 (1995).  The court then concluded:


Thus, any alleged confusion as to the scope of the arbitrator’s award – on either the part of the trial court or the parties – did not relieve the Riddicks of their statutorily imposed duty (as the prevailing parties) to file a timely application for confirmation of the arbitration award.


Note for Georgia Arbitrators:  While the record underlying this decision is not entirely clear, the Court of Appeals has clearly stated that award confirmation is strictly governed by the statute time limits.  Requests of arbitrators for further action after these time limits reinforces the concept that functus officio applies not only to the date of the issuance of the award, but also to requests for further actions that fall outside the time limits of the statute.  Judicial tolling is not acceptable within the time limits set forth in the applicable statute.


John Allgood is of counsel at Ford & Harrison.  For more than 20 years he has arbitrated and mediated cases in commercial, employment, construction and securities law, as well as in real estate and anti-trust matters.  An adjunct professor of ADR at Emory University School of Law, he was a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee panel of arbitrators during the 1996 and 1998 Olympic Games.

Phone: 404-888-3832; fax: 404-888-3863;