Is a partial award an award that is immediately reviewable by the superior court?

Maplebear, Inc., v. Donna Busick (CA1/2 A151677 8/21/18)

The appellant in this case, Maplebear, Inc. (Instacart), is a same day grocery delivery service that utilizes shoppers and drivers from across the country to select and deliver groceries. Donna Busick, the respondent in this case, worked as an Instacart shopper and driver. Instacart classified Busick, and others similarly situated, as independent contractors of Instacart, not as employees. Taking issue with this classification, Busick filed a class action arbitration demand on behalf of herself and others similarly situated, claiming that Instacart had violated California law by incorrectly classifying them as independent contractors.

Busick signed an Independent Contractors Agreement that said that disputes between Busick and Instacart would be submitted to binding arbitration, and that this arbitration would be conducted by JAMS. According to JAMS Class Action Procedures, the parties submitted to the arbitrator whether the Independent Contractor Agreement allowed Busick to “seek certification of a claimant class within the arbitration”.  The arbitrator issued a “partial final award” and determined that Busick was able to move for class certification as part of the mandated arbitration. After this determination, Instacart filed a petition in superior court to vacate the partial final reward, claiming that the arbitrator made legal errors in coming to this conclusion.

The central issue in this case is whether this partial award is an award that is immediately reviewable by the superior court. The California Arbitration Act (CAA) allows a party to an arbitration to petition the superior court to confirm, correct, or vacate an arbitrator’s award, and that the award “shall be in writing and signed by the arbitrators concurring therein” and “shall include determination of all the questions submitted to the arbitrators, the decision of which is necessary in order to determine the controversy”. Busick claims that Instacart’s petition should be dismissed on the grounds that the partial final award does not constitute an award under section 1283.4. The superior court agreed with Busick, saying that the court had no jurisdiction to rule on Instacart’s petition, and issued an order denying Instacart’s petition.

At the appellate level, the two things that needed to be determined were whether this order by the Superior Court is appealable, and whether the trial court correctly dismissed Instacart’s petition. This court determined the order is appealable, because although it was deemed as a dismissal, you look to the effect of the order rather than the label it is given. After it was determined that this order is appealable, this court looked at whether the partial final award constitutes an award. Because the partial final award does not address all of Busick’s issues, it cannot be considered an award under section 1283.4. Because of this, the appellate court concluded that the trial court correctly dismissed Instacart’s petition to vacate, because the trial court had no jurisdiction under the CAA to review it as this preliminary stage.