Mastrobuono v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc., 514 U.S. 52, 4 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 52 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

of the parties' agreement, which specifies that the contract shall be governed by New York law. Because the New York Court of Appeals has decided that in New York the power to award punitive damages is limited to judicial tribunals and may not be exercised by arbitrators, Garrity v. Lyle Stuart, Inc., 40 N. Y. 2d 354, 353 N. E. 2d 793 (1976), the District Court and the Seventh Circuit held that the panel of arbitrators had no power to award punitive damages in this case.

We granted certiorari, 513 U. S. 921 (1994), because the Courts of Appeals have expressed differing views on whether a contractual choice-of-law provision may preclude an arbitral award of punitive damages that otherwise would be proper. Compare Barbier v. Shearson Lehman Hutton Inc., 948 F. 2d 117 (CA2 1991), and Pierson v. Dean, Witter, Reynolds, Inc., 742 F. 2d 334 (CA7 1984), with Bonar v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 835 F. 2d 1378, 1386-1388 (CA11 1988), Raytheon Co. v. Automated Business Systems, Inc., 882 F. 2d 6 (CA1 1989), and Lee v. Chica, 983 F. 2d 883 (CA8 1993). We now reverse.1


Earlier this Term, we upheld the enforceability of a predispute arbitration agreement governed by Alabama law, even though an Alabama statute provides that arbitration agreements are unenforceable. Allied-Bruce Terminix Cos. v. Dobson, 513 U. S. 265 (1995). Writing for the Court, Justice Breyer observed that Congress passed the FAA "to overcome courts' refusals to enforce agreements to arbitrate." Id., at 270. See also Volt Information Sciences, Inc. v. Board of Trustees of Leland Stanford Junior Univ., 489 U. S., at 474; Dean Witter Reynolds Inc. v. Byrd, 470

1 Because our disposition would be the same under either a de novo or a deferential standard, we need not decide in this case the proper standard of a court's review of an arbitrator's decision as to the arbitrability of a dispute or as to the scope of an arbitration. We recently granted certiorari in a case that involves some of these issues. First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, No. 94-560, now pending before the Court.


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