Arbitration is a non-judicial procedure where the parties elect to have their cases heard and decided by an independent arbitrator or arbitrator panel. An arbitrator is usually a retired judge or an attorney experienced in the area practice that is the subject of the dispute. During an arbitration proceeding, both sides will submit evidence to the arbitrator; including witness testimony and documents and physical evidence. Arbitration can be mandatory pursuant to a controlling contractual provision or may be voluntarily entered by the parties. The decision of the arbitrator may be binding or non-binding on the parties, depending on the agreement.
Mediation is another form of alternate dispute resolution. Unlike arbitration, in a mediation conference, there is generally no evidence submitted. The conference is informal and all information exchanges is confidential. Mediation is overseen by a certified mediator. The mediator does not weigh evidence or render a decisions of fact or law. The mediator’s role is to act a neutral facilitator for settlement discussions. A skilled mediator will have frank and pragmatic discussions with both sides and attempt to steer the parties towards a voluntary mutually beneficial settlement. Most Courts in Florida now require civil litigants to conduct mediation prior to proceeding with trial.