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Davidson v. Hensen

February 21, 1997

SAMUEL DAVIDSON AND ELIZABETH DAVIDSON, APPELLANTS,
v.
BRUCE HENSEN DBA BLH CONSTRUCTION, REGISTRATION NO. BLHCO**066CJ; AND ITT HARTFORD INSURANCE CO., BOND NO. 21RN46485958231, RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from Superior Court of Kitsap County. Docket No: 95-2-01107-3. Date filed: 07/28/95. Judge signing: Hon. M. K. Haberly.

Petition for Review Granted July 8, 1997,

Authored by David H. Armstrong. Concurring: Elaine M. Houghton, Carroll C. Bridgewater.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Armstrong

ARMSTRONG, J. -- Bruce Hensen contracted to build a house for Samuel and Elizabeth Davidson. Disputes arose, and Hensen sought arbitration pursuant to the contract. After the close of evidence in the arbitration hearing, the Davidsons learned that Hensen's contractor registration and security bond may have lapsed. The arbitrator refused to consider any additional evidence and rendered an award for Hensen. Hensen then petitioned the Superior Court to confirm the award and the Davidsons objected, arguing that RCW 18.27.080 bars unregistered contractors from maintaining a court action to collect compensation. The trial court, finding no error on the face of the award, confirmed the award. Because trial court review of an arbitration award is limited to the face of the award where no error is apparent, we affirm.

FACTS

Bruce Hensen agreed to remodel a barn into a house for the Davidsons. The parties signed a written contract on January 25, 1994, and Hensen began work on January 31, 1994.

After disputes arose, Hensen, in December 1994, filed for arbitration as required under the contract. The Davidsons' counsel contacted the Department of Labor and Industries on April 21, 1995, and was told that it appeared Hensen had been continuously licensed and bonded, as required by RCW 18.27, since 1989 with no substantial lapses. The Davidsons' attorney requested copies of documents confirming Hensen's registration status that same day.

The arbitration hearing began a few days later. The parties questioned Hensen about his registration status, although the exact nature and scope of the questioning is disputed. After several days of hearings, the arbitrator asked if either side had any additional evidence to present.

Both sides agreed that they had completed their cases except for the posthearing briefs. The arbitrator then closed the evidentiary hearing on May 1 and began drafting the award.

On May 12, 1995, the Davidsons' attorney received a certified copy of Hensen's registration status from the Department of Labor and Industries.

The document showed that Hensen's registration had lapsed on March 30, 1994, and that his bond had lapsed on January 31, 1994. A few days later, the Davidsons moved to reopen the hearing. The arbitrator denied the request and then awarded Hensen approximately $7,500.

When Hensen moved to confirm the award, the Davidsons argued that, because Hensen was not registered and insured at the time of contracting, the court should vacate the award. The trial court found that the arbitrator had heard and determined Hensen's registration status. The court also ruled that it was limited to reviewing the face of the arbitration award unless a party was deprived of a full and fair hearing. Because no error existed on the face of the award, *fn1 the trial court confirmed the arbitration award. The Davidsons appeal.

ANALYSIS

The Davidsons argue that the trial court erred in confirming the arbitration award because RCW 18.27.080 bars unregistered contractors from bringing court actions to collect compensation. They ask us to remand the case ...


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