The Finality of Arbitration Decisions and Awards in Florida
If you enter into arbitration and a decision is reached that either favors you or is not in your best interest, what are the chances that the decision made by the arbitrator may be reversed or overturned? According to the Florida Supreme Court, which recently made a decision in an arbitration case involving a contract made between the home healthcare institution known as Visiting Nurse Association and Jupiter Medical Center, a hospital,. The court’s decision reaffirms the finality of arbitration decisions.
In a contract made between Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) and Jupiter Medical Center, the VNA purchased the hospital’s home healthcare agency. It was agreed that Jupiter would relay information about its association with VNA, which also leased 5,000 square feet of office space from Jupiter, to patients who were being discharged as long as those patients did not prefer to work with a different home healthcare provider. VNA expected to see an increase in business from the referrals.
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However, later it was revealed that Jupiter was not offering the information it had promised to relay to discharged patients, but that, instead, it was assigning patients to home healthcare organizations by using a rotating system. Although VNA expected to get an influx of referrals associated with Medicare patients, they did not and they alleged that the hospital had not informed its doctors about the agreement.
The Road Travelled
The two parties agreed to arbitration. The arbitration panel found in favor of the VNA and awarded them over $1 million, which was to be paid by Jupiter. Jupiter claimed foul and asked the arbitration panel to reconsider its decision because the contract broke federal and state laws that forbid kickbacks. In other words, Jupiter claimed that the contract was illegal and, thus, not enforceable. The panel disagreed.
Jupiter took their case to the federal court, but it would not hear the case because the court said that it did not have jurisdiction. They then took their case to Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeals (DCA), which did hear the case and agreed with the hospital. Thus, they reversed the arbitrator’s decision. But that was not the end of it.
VNA filed a brief with the Florida Supreme Court. That court overturned the appellate court’s decision. The Florida Supreme Court said that an arbitration panel does not have to determine if a contract is legal before rendering a decision and that no court could overturn a decision made in such an instance.
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The court noted that in Florida arbitration awards may be dismissed only if criteria established by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) or the Florida Arbitration Code is violated. Some of the reasons as to why an arbitration decision may be tossed out include instances when the arbitrator exceeded his/her powers under the contract or if the award was obtained by corruption, fraud, or undue means. However, neither the FAA nor the Florida Arbitration Code designates the legality of a contract as the criteria for dismissing an award won through arbitration. Thus VNA prevailed.
Quality Arbitration Services
Because arbitration decisions are likely to be final in the State of Florida, it is very important that you work with a law firm that has had experience and success in the field. The Campbell Law Group provides those needing premium business law services, including those related to contract disputes, litigation, and arbitration, the legal knowledge and power that they require to get the decision that they desire. If you are in the midst of a contract dispute and are considering litigation or arbitration, please contact the Campbell Law Group now.