Voluntary Binding Arbitration: A Statutory Option Available to Parties Before or After a Florida Lawsuit is Filed

Pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 44.104, "two or more opposing parties who are involved in a civil dispute may agree in writing to submit the controversy to voluntary binding arbitration, or voluntary trial resolution, in lieu of litigation of the issues involved, prior to or after a lawsuit has been filed, provided no constitutional issue is involved."   More information concerning voluntary trial resolution is available here:  Florida Law Permits Parties to Select Private Lawyer to Serve as Judge in State Court Lawsuits.  The following procedures for voluntary binding arbitration apply under the relevant Florida statute: 

1.  Arbitrator Selection.   If the parties have entered into an agreement which provides for voluntary binding arbitration and outlines a method for appointing one or more arbitrators, the court shall proceed with the appointment as prescribed. However, in voluntary binding arbitration at least one of the arbitrators, who shall serve as the chief arbitrator, shall meet the qualifications and training requirements adopted pursuant to s. 44.106. In the absence of an agreement, or if the agreement method fails or for any reason cannot be followed, the court, on application of a party, shall appoint one or more qualified arbitrators, as the case requires.  The arbitrators shall be compensated by the parties according to their agreement.

2.  The Parties File an Application/Request for Voluntary Binding Arbitration.  Within 10 days after the submission of the request for binding arbitration, the court shall provide for the appointment of the arbitrator or arbitrators.  The filing of the application for binding arbitration will toll the running of the applicable statutes of limitation, to the extent a lawsuit has not already been filed.

3.  Arbitrator Powers.  The chief arbitrator may administer oaths or affirmations and conduct the proceedings as the rules of court shall provide. At the request of any party, the chief arbitrator shall issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and for the production of books, records, documents, and other evidence and may apply to the court for orders compelling attendance and production. Subpoenas shall be served and shall be enforceable in the manner provided by law.

4.  The Arbitration Hearing and Award.  Once appointed, the arbitrators shall notify the parties of the time and place for the hearing.  A voluntary binding arbitration hearing shall be conducted by all of the arbitrators, but a majority may determine any question and render a final decision. The Florida Evidence Code shall apply to all proceedings.

5.  Appeals of the Arbitration Award.  An appeal of a voluntary binding arbitration decision shall be taken to the circuit court and shall be limited to review on the record and not de novo, of: (a) any alleged failure of the arbitrators to comply with the applicable rules of procedure or evidence, (b) any alleged partiality or misconduct by an arbitrator prejudicing the rights of any party, and (c) whether the decision reaches a result contrary to the Constitution of the United States or of the State of Florida.  The harmless error doctrine shall apply in all appeals. No further review shall be permitted unless a constitutional issue is raised.  If no appeal is taken within the time provided by rules promulgated by the Supreme Court, then the decision shall be referred to the presiding judge in the case, or if one has not been assigned, then to the chief judge of the circuit for assignment to a circuit judge, who shall enter such orders and judgments as are required to carry out the terms of the decision, which orders shall be enforceable by the contempt powers of the court and for which judgments execution shall issue on request of a party.

Joel Ewusiak serves an arbitrator for binding arbitration proceedings and has met the qualification and training requirements adopted pursuant to Florida Statutes Section 44.106.  For more information about Joel's services as an arbitrator, please visit the "Arbitrator" page on this website.