Is arbitration binding?
Under §718.1255, arbitration is not binding unless the parties agree to be bound by the decision or a party fails to seek a trial de novo within 30 days of the arbitrators ruling. Trial de novo is a fancy way of saying new trial. In essence, the parties go before a trial court as if the arbitration had never happened, filing a complaint, responding to it, seeking discovery, and then resolving the case through motion practice or a trial.
Are arbitration rulings binding on Courts?
No and yes.
In a trial de novo setting, the decision of the arbitrator is not binding. In Davis v. Condo. Ass’n of Plaza Towers South, Inc. a dispute arose between the owner and the association involving an air conditioner installed by the owner. After non-binding arbitration and a request by the owner for a trial de novo, the trial court granted the association’s motion for summary judgment based on the arbitrator’s findings. The Appellate Court reversed holding that while the arbitrator’s decision was admissible in the Trial Court proceeding, it could not be used to bind the Trial Court in making a decision. In other words, the issues of fact resolved by the arbitrator still needed to be resolved by the Trial Court as part of the case. and summary judgment could not be granted solely because the arbitrator had had otherwise.
After the time for a trial de novo has lapsed, yes. Remember, if no one has sought a trial de novo, the arbitrator’s decision becomes binding. At that point, if there is a filing for enforcement and the party fighting enforcement tries to argue the merits of the case, the Trial Court can do nothing to change the ruling. It must simply proceed with enforcement.
How is an arbitration award enforced?
A party may seek to enforce an arbitration award once it is issued. This is done by filing a petition in court. The court however cannot grant the petition until such time as the time for a trial de novo has expired without such a request being made. Once granted, the failure of the losing party to comply with the award could result in a finding of contempt of court and sanctions against the party.