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Florida Arbitration — must I ?

In the News • Sep 6, 2021
post about Florida Arbitration — must I ?

Florida arbitration or a trial in state or federal court? Seasoned trial attorneys reveal that arbitration is not necessarily all that it’s cracked up to be. While there may be some perceived advantages, can you really be compelled to arbitrate a matter? Let’s consider arbitration in light of a recent Florida appellate opinion.

Florida arbitration may not be necessary for certain lawsuits. Or if the right to arbitrate was waived.

The Arbitration Code

Chapter 682 of the Florida Statutes is the Florida Arbitration Code. Arbitration has been described as “private judging.” It’s a quasi-judicial proceeding in a private forum, as compared to a public state court or federal court. It is a forum to resolve a litigation. A lawsuit. Instead of a judge, you get an arbitrator. Sometimes you get a panel of three arbitrators. Who each charge you hundreds of dollars an hour for their services. Yes, that’s right ! Arbitration costs money !

Clauses in Contracts

Many times, there are clauses in contracts, and even in wills and trusts, which mandate arbitration. In other words, if you have certain disputes, you cannot have that resolved in a Florida court. Often, there is a disagreement over whether a particular claim, or lawsuit, or dispute, is covered by the arbitration provision. Do you have to arbitrate a fraud claim? And if you start out in state court, if the proceedings keep going, did someone WAIVE the right to arbitrate? And who decides if a claim is “arbitrable” or not: a judge or an arbitrator? (For a brief September 8, 2021 3rd DCA appellate opinion on waiving the right to arbitrate in court, click HERE).

Arbitrate Fraud?

The 1st District Court of Appeal issued its opinion in the case of JEA v. Zahn on August 24, 2021. The case is 1D20-3390.

Here are the highlights, in plain-English.

  • An order compelling arbitration is typically appealable under the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure 9.130.
  • In other words, if there is a lawsuit in state court. And there is a motion to compel arbitration. If you don’t like that order, know your appellate rights.
  • Are tort claims included in the arbitration provision?
  • What is the scope of the arbitration provision?
  • You must read the Florida Supreme Court case of Seifert v. U.S. Home Corp., 750 So. 2d 633 (Fla. 1999)
  • This case, and Seifert, analyze whether, or, under what circumstances, a tort claim are “related to” a contract
  • Is the arbitration clause limited and narrow, or “broad”?