Update: January 26, 2021

Florida civil arbitrator Rick Ellsley
featured in Broward County Trial Lawyers Association Newsletter

Update: January 19, 2021

December 23, 2020

In Florida, arbitration and voluntary trial resolution procedures are regulated by Chapter 44 of the Florida Statutes and various provisions of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure and the Florida Rules for Court-Appointed Arbitrators.

Non-binding Arbitration is detailed in Florida Statute Section 44.103 and the procedures are described in Rules 1.810 and 1.820 of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 1.820(c) requires that the arbitration hearing be "conducted informally" and that "presentation of testimony shall be kept to a minimum and matters shall be presented to the arbitrators primarily through the statements and arguments of counsel."

Thus, most arbitrations will be completed within one (1) day.

Importantly, Rule 1.820(g)(3) mandates that "Within 10 days of the final adjournment of the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator(s) shall notify the parties, in writing, of their decision." After the issuing of the arbitration decision, any party may move the trial court for a trial, but must do so within 20 days of the service on the parties of the arbitration decision.

Arbitration in Broward County

Binding vs. non-binding arbitration

Non-binding arbitration is useful for any case that needs resolution in the near future. It is efficient and economical. It is also decisive if neither party seeks a trial de novo. Voluntary Binding Arbitration and Voluntary Trial Resolution are two other options. They are more formal in nature than non-binding arbitration. These methods of getting cases resolved are detailed in Florida Statute Section 44.104 and the procedures are outlined in Rule 1.830. The law provides that “the parties to 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..."

Importantly, if Voluntary Binding Arbitration or Voluntary Trial Resolution are chosen, per Florida Statute Section 44.104(9) and (10), the law mandates that “The Florida Evidence Code shall apply” and that any appeal of the decision goes to the circuit court. Rule 1.830(c)(2) of the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure permits an appeal to be filed within 30 days of service of the arbitration decision on the parties, but if no appeal is timely filed, the arbitration decision is to be entered into a judgment by the trial court. Voluntary Trial Resolution is a civil trial presided over by a voluntary trial resolution judge. Both Arbitrators and Trial judges under this section have the authority to issue subpoenas for witness and documents.

Courts throughout Florida have been closed due to COVID-19 for most of 2020. It is unlikely that they will re-open for in-person jury trials anytime soon. Arbitration provides an effective, efficient, and economical resolution to a civil case and a great alternative to waiting months or years for jury trials to begin again.

How does arbitration differ from mediation?

As part of the process that is involved with a lawsuit in Florida, a judge may order the parties to participate in Arbitration and also attend a Mediation. These are two separate and distinct methods of alternative dispute resolution. These are helpful pathways to getting a lawsuit resolved. In Arbitration, an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators listen to evidence and arguments presented by all sides of the dispute. The arbitrator or the panel will make a determination on the issues presented and write a decision that will be presented to the trial judge. In Mediation, the parties will present their positions to each other while a mediator presides over the session. After the initial meeting of all participants, the mediator will meet privately with each party to discuss the various issues in the case and encourage offers and counteroffers to be made. Eventually the process is designed to produce a settlement that the parties determine themselves. The mediator does not make any determinative ruling as to who the winning party is. Both arbitration and mediation are effective processes for the resolution of cases before they proceed to trial.

How may The Ellsley Law Firm help you?

Rick Ellsley is a South Florida and Broward Arbitrator. Mr. Ellsley is a Florida Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer with more than 20 years of trial experience. Fewer than 1% of all lawyers in the State of Florida have achieved this distinction. Mr. Ellsley is a Past President of the Broward County Trial Lawyers Association and Former Co-Chair of the Trial Section of the Broward County Bar Association. Mr. Ellsley is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell for the highest degree of legal ability and ethical standards. Mr. Ellsley was the Recipient of the Broward County Bar Association’s Joseph J. Carter Professionalism Award in 2018. This award is presented to “A Lawyer Who Exemplifies the Highest Ideals of Professionalism in the Practice of Law and in Life.”