Arbitration differs primarily from mediation in that an arbitrator, or a panel of arbitrators, make a decision. The decision may be either binding or non-binding. Most arbitrations occur as a result of provisions in a contract between the parties. Increasingly, however, attorneys and their clients are appreciating the enormous savings in resources (time and money) by voluntarily agreeing to arbitrate.
Section 44.104 of the Florida Statues provides authority for voluntary binding arbitration, as well as Chapter 682 of the Laws of Florida, titled the Arbitration Code. Further, Rule of Civil Procedure 1.830 governs the procedural aspects of voluntary binding arbitration.
The overlay of these statutes and rules allow flexibility to the parties when tailoring an arbitration to their needs. Witness testimony may be limited, with many or most testimony submitted by affidavit. Document presentation can be similarly designed. The parties may also agree to simply adhere to the procedural rules of the American Arbitration Association.
Court-ordered, non-binding arbitration is not the norm because it adds costs for the parties, and risks the impression that access to the Court is being compromised. Increasingly, however, Courts are seeing the value of ordering non-binding arbitration when, for example, a party may need a reality check on the viability of further litigation. Put differently, it is a good way for the parties to put all cards on the table without the formalities and expense of trial.
Mr. Sturgess is formally trained as a court-ordered arbitrator. He is, therefore, capable of conducting contractual arbitration, or arbitration otherwise agreed by the parties. The parties must be certain to select an arbitrator who is familiar with the subject matter of their dispute. Mr. Sturgess conducts arbitrations in the same fields as mediations (as described in the “Mediation Areas” link) and, in particular, homeowner service or supply contractual arbitration and disputes with homeowner’s insurance.