HCBA Lawyer Magazine No. 32, Issue 3 | Page 48

Mediation & arbitration Section Chair : ­Harold­Oehler­ – ­Oehler­Mediation

If we have learned nothing else from the COVID-19 pandemic , we have learned that case management in virtually every circuit in the state of Florida now includes non-binding arbitration . Very often this is mandatory as is the case in Florida ’ s 20th Judicial Circuit . In our own 13th Judicial Circuit , the Order Referring Parties to Non-Binding Arbitration is issued pursuant to Fla . R . Civ . P . 1.800 , 1.810 , 1.820 , and Florida Statutes § 44.103 . The Administrative Order , Rule , and Statute provide a mandatory timeline for the entire process .

The first decision point for the practitioner is whether to select a panel or a sole arbitrator . Clearly , the panel presentation is much more expensive for the parties , but there may be strategic and tactical reasons to utilize it . Arguably , this may be the case in cases with larger damages at stake . The next step is to select the best possible arbitrator ( s ) for your case . Do you want a “ King Solomon ” arbitrator who splits the baby in half ? Or do
you want an experienced arbitrator or panel of arbitrators who will fairly and objectively evaluate the evidence and render a fair and impartial award that may be accepted by both parties ?
Next , you must gather the evidence necessary to meet your evidentiary burden . While the rules of evidence are relaxed and the hearing informal , you should prepare a verdict form for the arbitrator ( s ) to follow as you present your evidence on each claim and damages . Remember , the arbitrators sit in a quasi-judicial role . Thus , your presentation of evidence and exhibits must be organized to meet your burden as to all claims or defenses .
Additionally , the “ presentation of testimony shall be kept to a minimum , and matter shall be presented to the arbitrator ( s ) primarily through the statements and arguments of counsel .” 1 PowerPoint presentations or
ifwehavelearned nothingelsefromthe Covid-19pandemic , wehavelearnedthat casemanagement invirtuallyevery circuitinthestateof floridanowincludes non-binding arbitration .
documentary evidence should be presented to the arbitrator ( s ) in advance of the hearing date . Generally , you can submit the documents electronically , but if voluminous , hand deliver an organized and tabbed notebook just as you would to the Court before a dispositive hearing or trial . Medical records , deposition transcripts , and summaries are examples you should consider in preparing your case . Your submission may also contain the applicable decisional law for review by the arbitrator ( s ). If closing arguments are submitted in writing , send the arbitrator ( s ) an electronic copy in Word format .
The arbitrator ( s ) must render a decision within ten days of the adjournment of the hearing and the award shall be in writing . 2 While the verdict form is recommended for inclusion in any award , you must decide whether to
the Florida mediation Best practices Handbook is available online at www . hillsbar . com / group / meD .
4 6 j a n - f e b 2 0 2 2 | H C b a L a W Y e R