“I know how to turn an arbitration into a judgment,” says Kenneth Chaiken. As proof, just look at the $1.48 million he helped win for his client in Volanda Woods v. P.A.M. Transport Inc.

Chaiken says he joined the plaintiff’s legal team to help protect the underlying arbitration award at the U.S. District Court and later at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. When a plaintiff wins a big arbitration award, ensuing litigation is nearly inevitable, and “[g]iven the numbers in this case, you knew there was going to be an attack,” he says.

In his Feb. 8, 2008, memorandum and opinion in Woods, Senior U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish of the Northern District of Texas outlined the case: Woods, an employee of P.A.M. Transport, doing business as Choctaw Express Inc., was injured on the job. Under P.A.M.’s injury plan, an arbitration hearing was held in December 2006. An arbitrator sided with Woods, and P.A.M. filed a motion to vacate the award in the U.S. District Court in Dallas.

In its motion, P.A.M. contended “that the arbitrator was not sanctioned by the American Arbitration Association (‘AAA’) at the time of the award, the arbitrator was partial and not forthcoming as to why he had been removed from the AAA’s list of approved arbitrators, and that his ‘ill-concealed award of punitive damages’ was in manifest disregard for the law.”

Fish denied the motion to vacate, ruling that P.A.M. had not provided evidence that the arbitrator was “not sanctioned” by AAA, had not provided evidence of any “non-disclosure” of that alleged AAA status and had not demonstrated the arbitrator’s disregard for the law.

P.A.M. appealed. On Sept. 20, the 5th Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part Fish’s decision and remanded the case to the trial court for a re-calculation of the pre- and post-judgment interest awarded to Woods.

On Oct. 18, Fish signed the final judgment awarding Woods $1.48 million.

William L. Shirer of Dallas’ McGilberry & Shirer, the lead trial lawyer for Woods, says he called Chaiken’s office and sought his help to preserve the award. Chaiken also handled the briefs and arguments at the 5th Circuit.

Chaiken, a partner in Dallas’ Chaiken & Chaiken, says he has developed a practice handling litigation arising after and related to arbitration.

“I think he [Shirer] got his money’s worth,” Chaiken says.

Shirer agrees, noting that Chaiken will receive part of Shirer’s contingent fee from the judgment. Shirer says, “This arbitration field started out as being something very simple. No fuss, no muss. That has obviously changed a great deal. Unfortunately, it has gotten very complex.” As a result, he was happy Chaiken helped him sort it out.

Frank G. Cawley, a partner in Dallas’ Whitehurst & Cawley and the defense’s lead lawyer in the district court, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

David Wiener of the Wiener Law Firm in Dallas, who represents P.A.M. on appeal, says, “Certainly on its face, the result was favorable” for the other side. He adds that the check has gone out.

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