Tobey v County of Bristol, et al.
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Plaintiff brought an action against defendant county seeking to compel the county, pursuant to an arbitration agreement, to select arbitrators from a schedule that plaintiff offered and for the appointment of arbitrators by mutual consent.
OVERVIEW: Plaintiff and the county entered into an agreement where the parties would submit disputes growing out of the construction of a road to mandatory and binding arbitration, with the arbitrators to be selected by mutual consent. When the county sought to submit a dispute to arbitration, plaintiff brought an action to force the county to agree to arbitrators selected from a schedule he provided and to choose a panel by mutual consent. The court refused to grant plaintiff's request for specific performance of the agreement. The court held that arbitration agreements were disfavored at common law and that they were revocable so long as an award had not been made. Specific performance was not an available remedy for the breach of the arbitration agreement, and the court had discretion to grant or withhold the request in accordance with its view of the merits. The court lacked the power to compel performance of the agreement when the law declared it revocable, and plaintiff's proper remedy was to seek a writ of mandamus from the state appellate courts.
OUTCOME: In plaintiff's action to compel the county to submit his claims to arbitration, the court ordered the bill to be discharged, but without costs to the defendants.