Michael L. Feinstein, P.A.

Florida Supreme Court Ripens Arbitration Dispute

In today's climate of conflict resolution, arbitration and mediation are two common approaches chosen by parties eager to avoid the costs and time commitment of litigation. Arbitration is governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), which sets forth rules and guidelines for the process. Participants are able to set forth their positions to a neutral arbiter who then works with both sides to arrive at a workable compromise.

Before embarking on arbitration, however, parties must determine whether the outcome of the procedure will be binding or nonbinding. In a nonbinding arbitration procedure, parties will often endure the process in order to gauge the strengths or weaknesses of their particular positions and they may file for relief in a court of law thereafter. If an arbiter's decision is final, however, parties may not seek additional redress in a court of law absent very limited circumstance as discussed further below.

Florida Decides Pivotal Binding Arbitration Dispute

A binding arbitration decision may be appealed by Ft. Lauderdale appellate attorneys only in extremely rare situations, which are set forth by Sections 9 and 10 of the FAA. Under these provisions, an arbitration decision may be vacated only under the following scenarios:

 The award was procured by fraud or undue means
 Corruption of the arbiters
 Evidence that arbiters refused to hear evidence or refused to delay the hearing despite sufficient cause shown
 Arbiters exceeded their powers under the FAA

In light of these exceptions, the Florida Supreme Court recently reviewed a binding arbitration decision involving the Visiting Nurses Association of Florida and Jupiter Medical Center. In that case, Jupiter Medical Center contended that it should not have to pay the Nurses Association $1.25 million under a contract for services it deemed to be fraudulent and based on illegal kickbacks and unlawful financial incentives.

Following arbitration, the Nurses Association prevailed and was awarded the $1.25 million in dispute. Jupiter Medical Center promptly appealed to the Florida Supreme Court, asserting that it must grant a writ of certiorari for review, or the "decision below would leave courts with no choice but to enforce arbitral awards that require illegal conduct- such as price-fixing, market splitting, patient steering, race discrimination and the like."

After reviewing the case, the Florida Supreme Court upheld the arbiter's decision, citing the provisions of the FAA allowing for a vacation of a binding arbitration decision. In its opinion, the court opined that it was essentially unable under the law to reverse the decision, as the FAA did not provide it a vehicle to do so. Jupiter Medical appealed its position to the U.S. Supreme Court, contending that courts should be able to vacate certain arbitration decisions even if not expressly addressed by the FAA.

The issue is ripe for review, as several other jurisdictions have grappled with the same issue. Specifically, the Circuit Courts are essentially split, with some holding that judicially-created exceptions are appropriate, while others stringently apply the FAA.

Contact Feinstein Law for Assistance With Your Appellate Case Today!

If you are interested in appealing a decision recently rendered against you and would like to discuss your options with a knowledgeable attorney, please contact Feinstein Law right away. We are conveniently located in Ft. Lauderdale and we look forward to working with you.

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