Florida’s courts generally favor enforcement of the parties’ agreement to submit disputes to arbitration where their agreement clearly evidences that intention. Florida arbitrations do offer some benefits not commonly associated with our judicial process, including the relative privacy of the process, a possibly more efficient path to final resolution and the virtual preclusion of costly and drawn-out appeals. Florida case decisions have upheld the parties’ agreement to have their disagreements arbitrated even over the objection of one party who later regrets that decision.
But parties to agreements with arbitration provisions should remain mindful that certain controversies between the parties may not be appropriate for arbitration; some matters in fact might be better handled by the courts. For instance, if real property is involved, arbitration may not offer the opportunity for prompt and decisive decisions on issues of possession, title and matters in which equitable remedies are key. In such cases, the local judicial system might be a more effective alternative to resolve the parties’ quarrel; access to prompt hearings before the courts may prove valuable to the parties, as might the various equitable remedies in the courts’ arsenal.
In addition, the rules of the American Arbitration Association, JAMS or similar arbitral service providers may materially restrict the scope of arbitrable disputes before them. State laws might also circumscribe those matters that may be subject to arbitration from those that must be aired in the courts in the first instance.
When drafting agreements in which the parties wish to include a provision calling for the resolution of their squabbles by arbitration, the scope of disputes subject to Florida arbitration should be considered. The object of the agreement may suggest that not all possible disputes that could arise should be arbitrated. A need for immediate remedies in certain events might support the parties’ express agreement to exclude some controversies from arbitration; specific performance or quiet title matters in real estate ventures, or temporary injunctive relief in employment or trade secret disputes, are prime examples.
If the parties wish to exclude some conflicts from the scope of a broadly stated arbitration provision, they should specify those intentions with care. Florida courts weigh heavily the intentions of the parties as expressed in their written agreements, so clarity of those intentions is vital.