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Florida Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Florida Construction Lawyers » Florida Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Florida Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyers

Not every construction law dispute needs to end up in a Florida courtroom with a judge presiding over a trial.

In fact, that only happens in the minority of cases that cannot be resolved using other means.

The general preference for disputing parties and the Florida court system is for the matter to be resolved amicably through negotiation or mediation. Arbitration is another option that is commonly used to settle disputes without a formal court trial.

These are known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods and they can save considerable time, expense, energy, and stress. The Florida Court System has used ADR to resolve disputes for decades.

Generally speaking, it is advisable to give ADR methods every chance possible before progressing to a trial.

Most commonly, ADR involves negotiation/collaboration between lawyers from both sides of the dispute, mediation between the parties, or arbitration.

At Bennett Legal Group in Maitland, our preference is to avoid business disputes in the first place. Unfortunately, they arise regardless. If they can be settled out of court through ADR methods, this is generally the preferred option for our clients.

What is mediation?

While mediation may be more structured than collaboration sessions between lawyers, it is less formal than either arbitration or a trial.

According to the Florida statutes, mediation is the process by which:

“a neutral third person called a mediator acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more parties.”

A mediator’s role is to remain impartial and to focus on facilitating a solution to the dispute. He or she does not make any decisions or offer legal advice – which means that lawyers may need to be present in the mediation sessions as well as the disputing parties.

The mediator is often an attorney or retired judge. The outcome of the mediation process, which may run to several sessions, can be either:

  1. An agreement is reached, after which the parties will sign a legally binding document confirming what they have agreed to, or
  2. No agreement is reached – and another dispute resolution method must be followed.

Either way, the outcome of mediation remains private – unlike a court trial, which is a matter of public record. This may be an important factor for construction businesses and professionals concerned about reputation damage from a dispute.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is similar to a trial but it is conducted privately, not held in a courtroom, and there is no jury.

According to the Florida statutes, arbitration is the process by which:

“a neutral third person or panel, called an arbitrator or arbitration panel, considers the facts and arguments presented by the parties and renders a decision.”

Like mediation, it may be voluntary or mandatory (ordered by the court) and is generally a quicker and less expensive option for litigants than a court trial in front of a judge. 

With construction industry disputes, arbitrators may be retired judges, other persons of similar standing and authority, or officials with specialist knowledge of the construction industry. In fact, Brian Bennett is often called upon to serve as the arbitrator in construction disputes.  

Unlike with mediation, the officials presiding over the proceedings (an arbitrator or arbitration panel) make a decision that both parties must usually agree to abide by (“binding arbitration”). 

With “non-binding arbitration”, the parties can choose whether to accept the decision of the arbitrator as final. If not, they may proceed to trial.

After listening to the evidence, arguments, and witness testimony presented by both sides, a decision is made and, in the cases of binding arbitration, this may be filed with the court to affirm. Once this is done, it is legally binding and both parties must accept it as final.

Mediation or arbitration? Which is best? 

There are pros and cons of both mediation and arbitration. These are summarized below.

Mediation 

Main pros 

  • Quicker and less expensive than going through the courts
  • Cooperative rather than adversarial 
  • Less formal than a court trial or arbitration
  • Remains private rather than a matter of public record
  • Flexible when scheduling sessions
  • Creative solutions to problems possible
  • Direct discussions facilitated between disputed parties
  • No one “wins” or “loses” – mutually beneficial resolutions are sought

Main cons

  • Not appropriate where there is a reticence to discuss matters openly
  • Not appropriate where one or both parties are entrenched in their positions and not open to negotiation
  • Possible lack of qualifications for the selected mediator (check credentials before hiring)
  • The agreement may not be legally binding unless steps are taken to make it so

Arbitration 

Main pros 

  • Quicker and less expensive than going through the courts
  • Disputing parties can choose the arbitrator (unlike with a judge or a jury in court)
  • Remains private rather than a matter of public record
  • Less formal and more relaxed

Main cons

  • After binding arbitration, you cannot appeal (unlike with a court case)
  • Potential lack of transparency because the ruling is not made public
  • Rising costs compared to mediation
  • There may still be a “winner” and a “loser” (unlike with mediation)

Save time and money with a Florida ADR attorney 

At Bennett Legal Group, almost any construction or business dispute can be resolved with the assistance of our trained and experienced alternative dispute resolution attorneys, saving you time and money.

Typically, we use ADR methods to resolve the following types of disputes:

  • Contract disputes: we represent owners, general contractors, design professionals, subcontractors, suppliers, and other construction professionals.
  • Construction defect disputesour attorneys and their network of independent experts can help you defend against construction defect claims or to pursue the compensation you deserve.
  • Delay and extra work disputes: we use ADR methods to resolve disputes for owners, contractors, and design professionals in claims for extra work or delays.
  • Malpractice defense: we defend architects and engineers facing design or contract administration malpractice claims, often adopting ADR methods for dispute resolution.
  • Professional liability disputes: Contractors, engineers, architects, project managers, and other professionals facing liability issues can benefit from mediation or arbitration. 
  • Insurance coverage disputes: we represent insurance companies, construction businesses, and professionals in arbitration and mediation proceedings and at trial.
  • Payment disputes: to help avoid serious delays for construction projects, alternative dispute resolution methods are an important option to consider.

Florida alternative dispute resolution attorneys

Whether you are facing complex contractual issues, liability issues, or another type of construction dispute, alternative dispute resolution methods can help resolve the matter with the least possible impact on the project and your business.

As ADR becomes increasingly preferred to litigation by the Florida court system, our alternative dispute resolution attorneys will seek all reasonable alternatives to the traditional litigation process before we end up in court.

Indeed, many construction contracts now include mediation or arbitration clauses, stipulating these options as the preferred dispute resolution methods.

Our ADR attorneys are trained in mediation and arbitration and, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, we will offer alternatives to a trial wherever possible.

Brian Bennett has been on the AAA national roster of construction neutrals for several years and has presided over many complex cases. 

Nick Shannin is a certified mediator and has assisted many parties in resolving their disputes. 

Our entire team is ready to assist you whether your claim is “pre-suit” or already in a legal forum.

Book a consultation with an alternative dispute resolution lawyer

At Bennett Legal Group in Maitland, we aim to prevent legal issues from escalating and adversely impacting futures.

Call us today at 407-734-4559 to arrange a consultation or complete a short form and let us know the nature of your issue.

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