In a published decision issued on February 16, 2018, the Superior Court of New Jersey Appellate Division clarified that a trial court’s decision to compel or deny enforcement of a contractual arbitration provision constitutes a “final order” that triggers the 45-day appeal period provided under R. 2:4-4. Hayes v. Turnersville Chrysler Jeep, Docket No. A-2063-16T1.
This case involved claims of fraud, breach of contract and consumer fraud brought against the defendant car dealership. The automobile contract contained an arbitration provision which the defendant car dealership sought to enforce. But the trial court declined to enforce the arbitration provision. Several months later the car dealership filed a motion for reconsideration of that trial court’s order, claiming it was an interlocutory order reviewable at any time prior to final judgment based on a showing of good cause and in the interests of justice. The trial court rejected the motion for reconsideration, finding that its order constituted a “final order” that defendant was required to appeal within 45 days from the date of its entry. The defendant appealed the trial court’s order denying enforcement of the contractual arbitration provision.
The Appellate Division affirmed the trial court’s ruling, citing to R. 2:2-3(a)(3) (which clearly states that an order either compelling or denying an arbitration constitutes a “final order” for appeal purposes), and the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in GMAC v. Pitella, 205 N.J. 572, 587 (2011) (holding that “all orders compelling and denying shall be deemed final for purposes of appeal, regardless of whether such orders dispose of all issues and all parties, and the time for appeal therefrom starts from the date of the entry of that order.”).
The moral of the story
Practitioners and litigants seeking to enforce contractual arbitration provisions must be mindful of the appellate time period for seeking review of an adverse decision compelling or denying arbitration.