Federal judge tosses Hancock’s arbitration appeal

By Patsy R. Brumfield

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – A federal judge ordered Hancock Fabrics Inc. to pay attorneys fees and other costs the Baldwyn-based company insisted were beyond the scope of an arbitrator in a 2009 contract dispute.

U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock granted confirmation to Westlake Associates of California for an arbitration award issued in March 2012.

Her decision Tuesday also closed the case and its counter-suit in the Northern District of Mississippi.

The arbitrator agreed that Hancock owed damages to Westlake from a contract in which Westlake agreed to set up Hancock’s crafts departments and garner a guaranteed fee and royalties from sales.

Westlake also was to be paid some $550,000 in attorneys fees, costs and arbitration expenses.

Hancock sued in Lee County, saying the arbitrator exceeded his authority, then Westlake asked the federal court to confirm its awards.

In Aycock’s ruling, she upheld the arbitrator’s authority as a “rational remedy” that trumped Hancock’s claims the awards should be vacated.

However, she told Westlake that its request to clarify the definition of its royalty products was not necessary because the arbitrator’s award was “unambiguous” on that issue.

patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com