Many construction contracts contain arbitration provisions. Instead of litigating a dispute arising out of the contract, the parties will arbitrate the dispute per the arbitration provision. There are advantages to arbitration and certain disputes bode well for arbitration. The key is you want to make sure you select the RIGHT arbitrator or arbitrators. Do your homework regarding the arbitrator list presented to you by, say, the American Arbitration Association. Strike out those on the list that either do not have the requisite experience you need to decide the dispute or you believe they are not going to be impartial. For instance, if you want an arbitrator that you think will specifically follow the letter of the law or the precise terms of a contract, select those on the list that meet this requirement; strike out others that do not. The same philosophy would apply if you want an arbitrator to have specific factual knowledge or a factual understanding regarding a driving issue in the dispute. Do not neglect the homework required to select –or try to select — the arbitrator you believe is the most qualified to understand the issues.
Now, why is this important? It is important because you need to arbitrate a dispute with the understanding that the arbitrator’s award (decision) is FINAL. There are no appellate rights. None. Vacating an arbitrator’s award is very challenging and the bases to vacate an award are limited and, most of the time, will NOT apply.
In a recent decision, a party tried to vacate an arbitration award. One of the arguments was that the arbitration panel failed to follow Florida law. Well, guess what? An arbitrator does not necessarily have to comply with Florida law. Legal error by an arbitration panel is not a basis to vacate an arbitration award. See Managed Care Ins. Consultants, Inc. v. United Healthcare Ins. Co., 42 Fla. L. Weekly D1599b (Fla. 4th DCA 2017).
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