Timely Moving for Trial De Novo after Non-Binding Arbitration Award
When involved in litigation, there are courts that will require you to go to non-binding arbitration as a method to resolve the dispute before proceeding to trial. While courts will always require you to mediate, some courts will take it a step further and require you to proceed to non-binding arbitration. See Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.820 and Florida Statute s. 44.103. And there are times parties will voluntarily agree to this process. I am not a fan of non-binding arbitration. I don’t find it to be a productive vehicle to resolve disputes compared to mediation (even multiple mediations). However, if the court requires it, you need to comply with the court’s order.
What is important to know is that after non-binding arbitration, the arbitrator will enter its award/decision. If a party does not like the award/decision, and wants to proceed to trial, the party MUST timely file a motion for trial de novo.
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.820(h) provides:
Any party may file a motion for trial. If a motion for trial is filed by any party, any party having a third-party claim at issue at the time of arbitration may file a motion for trial within 10 days of service of the first motion for trial. If a motion for trial is not made within 20 days of service on the parties of the decision, the decision shall be referred to the presiding judge, who shall enter such orders and judgments as may be required to carry out the terms of the decision as provided by section 44.103(5), Florida Statutes.
Florida Statute 44.103(5) provides:
The arbitration decision shall be presented to the parties in writing. An arbitration decision shall be final if a request for a trial de novo is not filed within the time provided by rules promulgated by the Supreme Court. The decision shall not be made known to the judge who may preside over the case unless no request for trial de novo is made as herein provided or unless otherwise provided by law. If no request for trial de novo is made within the time provided, the decision shall be referred to the presiding judge in the case who shall enter such orders and judgments as are required to carry out the terms of the decision, which orders shall be enforceable by the contempt powers of the court, and for which judgments execution shall issue on request of a party.
If the motion for trial de novo is NOT timely filed, the non-binding arbitration award will be made known the judge “who shall enter such orders and judgments as are required to carry out the terms of the [arbitrator’s] decision.” Timely filing the motion for trial de novo is mandatory requirement if a party wants to proceed to trial. See Gambrel v. Sampson, 46 Fla. L. Weekly D2449a (Fla. 2d DCA 2021) (party cannot escape judgement on non-binding arbitration when it fails to timely move for a trial de novo). “If a litigant fails to request at trial within twenty days of service of the arbitration award, the court ‘shall’ enter a judgment on that award.” Id.
Please contact David Adelstein at [email protected] or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.