Arbitration for years has been lauded as a less costly, more expedient means to resolve commercial disputes: shorter deadlines, dedicated arbiter(s), minimal discovery, prompt results. Certainly during the past 5 years, Florida courts were deluged with a flood of foreclosure litigation that seriously overwhelmed judicial resources; arbitration became a viable alternative for businesses seeking prompt resolution of their disputes.
But the waning of the foreclosure crisis has brought the spotlight back to the critical question: is arbitration a worthwhile option for commercial dispute resolution in Florida? Many arbitrators now permit substantial document productions, interrogatories and depositions ahead of final hearings. And of course, final decisions from arbitrators are virtually immune to judicial review.
Excepted from this discussion are international arbitrations. For a variety of reasons, the arbitration of international disputes provides very material benefits to participants. Miami has become a mecca for international arbitration, given its proximity to Latin America and its general allure to European, Latin American and even Far Eastern business interests.
For domestic business disputes, however, businesses must carefully weigh the ‘pros and cons’ of resolving their Florida disputes through either arbitration or the judicial system. The costs and delays associated with arbitration have become similar to those generally expected in court proceedings. Several judicial circuits in Florida have created “business courts” or “complex litigation sections” that cater to large, complex business disputes; these specialized courts seek to provide businesses with a more efficient means to resolve claims than might be afforded by arbitration. These facts should cause businesses and their general counsel to think carefully about the forum in which to resolve their commercial disputes.