Plaintiff sued for damages from a car accident and entered compulsory arbitration with the Defendants. The arbitrator awarded damages to the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff appealed the arbitration award for a trial de novo in Superior Court; the Defendant did not. Two weeks later, the Plaintiff filed a notice of dismissal of her appeal from the arbitration award. The Defendants moved to strike the notice. The Superior Court, however, dismissed the appeal, and the Defendants appealed that dismissal to the Court of Appeals, claiming a right to a trial de novo in Superior Court.
No rule or decision controlled whether to allow the dismissal. The Court of Appeals majority held that the Superior Court had the inherent authority to dismiss the appeal because the Defendants did not rely to their detriment on the Plaintiff’s filing of her appeal. Having failed to appeal the arbitration award, the Defendants were not entitled to insist on proceeding to a trial de novo. The dissent, on the other hand, stated that the trial court should not be allowed to dismiss the trial de novo without consent from the other party. The dissent reasoned that the majority opinion created a risk for parties relying on an opposing party’s appeal from the arbitration award to secure their right to proceed to a trial de novo—a right that would then be lost if the appealing party unilaterally dismissed the appeal of the arbitration award.
Judge Ehrlich wrote the opinion for the panel and was joined by Judge Timmer. Judge Orozco wrote the dissent.