Pursuant to Chapter 44, Florida Statutes, arbitration is a process whereby a neutral third person or panel considers the facts and arguments presented by the parties and renders a decision which may be binding or nonbinding. A practicing lawyer for over 16 years, Joel Ewusiak serves as an arbitrator for binding and non-binding arbitration proceedings in Florida. (Per Florida law, arbitrators shall be members of The Florida Bar, and the chief arbitrator shall have been a member of The Florida Bar for at least five years.) Joel charges a flat rate of $1,750 per day (up to 8 hours), and $1,000 per half day (up to 4 hours), to preside over final hearings. In addition to his flat rate for final hearings, Joel charges $250/hour for pre-hearing conferences, for review of materials submitted by parties or counsel, and for preparation of orders on motions and the final arbitration award. Joel does not charge for travel to arbitration hearings held in the following Florida counties: Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas. Otherwise, Joel charges $100/hour for travel, plus airline costs, if necessary. For more information concerning Joel's arbitrator services, rates/fees, and availability, please contact Joel directly by phone (727.286.3559) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Information concerning binding and non-binding arbitration in Florida is summarized below.
Binding arbitration in Florida is subject to the following rules and procedures, as set forth in Florida Statutes, Sections 682.032 to 682.11 (the Revised Florida Arbitration Code):
1. Arbitrator Selection. The parties may agree on a method to appoint arbitrators or file a motion with the court to appoint one or more arbitrators.
2. Arbitrator Powers. An appointed arbitrator has all the powers of an arbitrator designated in the agreement to arbitrate. The powers of the arbitrator are also outlined by Florida Statutes Sections 682.06 and 682.08.
3. The Arbitration Hearing. An arbitrator may conduct an arbitration hearing in such manner as the arbitrator considers appropriate for a fair and expeditious disposition of the proceeding. The arbitrator’s authority includes the power to hold conferences with the parties to the arbitration proceeding before the hearing and, among other matters, determine the admissibility, relevance, materiality, and weight of any evidence. Additionally:
- An arbitrator may decide a request for summary disposition of a claim or particular issue: (a) if all interested parties agree; or (b) upon request of one party to the arbitration proceeding, if that party gives notice to all other parties to the proceeding and the other parties have a reasonable opportunity to respond.
- If an arbitrator orders a hearing, the arbitrator shall set a time and place and give notice of the hearing not less than 5 days before the hearing begins.
- A party to the arbitration proceeding has a right to be heard, to present evidence material to the controversy, and to cross-examine witnesses appearing at the hearing.
- An arbitrator may issue a subpoena for the attendance of a witness and for the production of records and other evidence at any hearing and may administer oaths. A subpoena must be served in the manner for service of subpoenas in a civil action and, upon motion to the court by a party to the arbitration proceeding or the arbitrator, enforced in the manner for enforcement of subpoenas in a civil action.
- In order to make the proceedings fair, expeditious, and cost effective, upon request of a party to, or a witness in, an arbitration proceeding, an arbitrator may permit a deposition of any witness to be taken for use as evidence at the hearing, including a witness who cannot be subpoenaed for or is unable to attend a hearing. The arbitrator shall determine the conditions under which the deposition is taken.
- An arbitrator may permit such discovery as the arbitrator decides is appropriate in the circumstances, taking into account the needs of the parties to the arbitration proceeding and other affected persons and the desirability of making the proceeding fair, expeditious, and cost effective. The arbitrator may order a party to the arbitration proceeding to comply with the arbitrator’s discovery-related orders, issue subpoenas for the attendance of a witness and for the production of records and other evidence at a discovery proceeding, and take action against a noncomplying party to the extent a court could if the controversy were the subject of a civil action in Florida.
- An arbitrator may issue a protective order to prevent the disclosure of privileged information, confidential information, trade secrets, and other information protected from disclosure to the extent a court could if the controversy were the subject of a civil action in Florida.
- All laws compelling a person under subpoena to testify and all fees for attending a judicial proceeding, a deposition, or a discovery proceeding as a witness apply to an arbitration proceeding as if the controversy were the subject of a civil action in Florida.
4. The Arbitration Award. An arbitrator shall make a record of an award. The record must be signed or otherwise authenticated by any arbitrator who concurs with the award. An arbitrator may order such remedies as the arbitrator considers just and appropriate under the circumstances of the arbitration proceeding. An arbitrator may award reasonable attorney fees and other reasonable expenses of arbitration if such an award is authorized by law in a civil action involving the same claim or by the agreement of the parties to the arbitration proceeding. An arbitrator may award punitive damages or other exemplary relief if such an award is authorized by law in a civil action involving the same claim and the evidence produced at the hearing justifies the award under the legal standards otherwise applicable to the claim. If an arbitrator awards punitive damages or other exemplary relief, the arbitrator shall specify in the award the basis in fact justifying and the basis in law authorizing the award and state separately the amount of the punitive damages or other exemplary relief. An arbitrator’s expenses and fees, together with other expenses, must be paid as provided in the award. The arbitrator shall give notice of the award, including a copy of the award, to each party to the arbitration proceeding.
Non-binding arbitration in Florida is subject to the following rules and procedures, as set forth in Florida Statutes Section 44.103 and Rules 1.800 and 1.820 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure:
1. Arbitrator Selection. Arbitrators shall be selected and compensated in accordance with rules adopted by the Supreme Court. Arbitrators shall be compensated by the parties, or, upon a finding by the court that a party is indigent, an arbitrator may be partially or fully compensated from state funds according to the party’s present ability to pay. At no time may an arbitrator charge more than $1,500 per diem, unless the parties agree otherwise.
2. Arbitrator Powers. An arbitrator or, in the case of a panel, the chief arbitrator, shall have such power to administer oaths or affirmations and to conduct the proceedings as the rules of court shall provide. The chief arbitrator shall not have authority to hold any person in contempt or to in any way impose sanctions against any person. The chief arbitrator may issue instructions as are necessary for the expeditious and orderly conduct of the hearing. The chief arbitrator's instructions are not appealable. Upon notice to all parties the chief arbitrator may apply to the presiding judge for orders directing compliance with such instructions. Instructions enforced by a court order are appealable as are other orders of the court.
3. The Arbitration Hearing. The hearing shall be conducted informally. Presentation of testimony and evidence shall be kept to a minimum, and matters shall be presented to the arbitrators primarily through the statements and arguments of counsel. Any party to the arbitration may petition the court in the underlying action, for good cause shown, to authorize the arbitrator to issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, records, documents, and other evidence at the arbitration and may petition the court for orders compelling such attendance and production at the arbitration. Subpoenas shall be served and shall be enforceable in the manner provided by law. When a party fails to appear at a hearing, the chief arbitrator may proceed with the hearing and the arbitration panel shall render a decision based upon the facts and circumstances as presented by the parties present. Any party may have a record and transcript made of the arbitration hearing at that party's expense.
4. The Arbitration Award. Within 10 days of the final adjournment of the arbitration hearing, the arbitration award shall be presented to the parties in writing. The arbitration decision may set forth the issues in controversy and the arbitrator's conclusions and findings of fact and law. The arbitrator's decision and the originals of any transcripts shall be sealed and filed with the clerk at the time the parties are notified of the decision. An arbitration decision shall be final if a request for a trial de novo is not filed within the time provided by rules promulgated by the Supreme Court (i.e., within 20 days of service on the parties of the decision). The decision shall not be made known to the judge who may preside over the case unless no request for trial de novo is made as herein provided or unless otherwise provided by law. If no request for trial de novo is made within the time provided, the decision shall be referred to the presiding judge in the case 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.
5. The "Proposal for Settlement" Component (i.e., Awarding Attorney Fees and Costs Based on the Arbitration Award if Case is Tried). Upon motion made by either party within 30 days after entry of judgment, the court may assess costs against the party requesting a trial de novo, including arbitration costs, court costs, reasonable attorney’s fees, and other reasonable costs such as investigation expenses and expenses for expert or other testimony which were incurred after the arbitration hearing and continuing through the trial of the case in accordance with the guidelines for taxation of costs as adopted by the Supreme Court. Such costs may be assessed if:
(a) The plaintiff, having filed for a trial de novo, obtains a judgment at trial which is at least 25 percent less than the arbitration award. In such instance, the costs and attorney’s fees pursuant to this section shall be set off against the award. When the costs and attorney’s fees pursuant to this section total more than the amount of the judgment, the court shall enter judgment for the defendant against the plaintiff for the amount of the costs and attorney’s fees, less the amount of the award to the plaintiff. For purposes of a determination under this paragraph, the term “judgment” means the amount of the net judgment entered, plus all taxable costs pursuant to the guidelines for taxation of costs as adopted by the Supreme Court, plus any postarbitration collateral source payments received or due as of the date of the judgment, and plus any postarbitration settlement amounts by which the verdict was reduced; or
(b) The defendant, having filed for a trial de novo, has a judgment entered against the defendant which is at least 25 percent more than the arbitration award. For purposes of a determination under this paragraph, the term “judgment” means the amount of the net judgment entered, plus any postarbitration settlement amounts by which the verdict was reduced.