Section 44.103, Florida Statutes 2004
44.103 Court-ordered, nonbinding arbitration.--
(1) Court-ordered, nonbinding arbitration shall be conducted according to the rules of practice and procedure adopted by the Supreme Court.
(2) A court, pursuant to rules adopted by the Supreme Court, may refer any contested civil action filed in a circuit or county court to nonbinding arbitration.
(3) Arbitrators shall be selected and compensated in accordance with rules adopted by the Supreme Court. Arbitrators shall be compensated by the parties, or, upon a finding by the court that a party is indigent, an arbitrator may be partially or fully compensated from state funds according to the party's present ability to pay. Prior to approving the use of state funds to reimburse an arbitrator, the court must ensure that the party reimburses the portion of the total cost that the party is immediately able to pay and that the party has agreed to a payment plan established by the clerk of the court that will fully reimburse the state for the balance of all state costs for both the arbitrator and any costs of administering the payment plan and any collection efforts that may be necessary in the future. Whenever possible, qualified individuals who have volunteered their time to serve as arbitrators shall be appointed. If an arbitration program is funded pursuant to s. 44.108, volunteer arbitrators shall be entitled to be reimbursed pursuant to s. 112.061 for all actual expenses necessitated by service as an arbitrator.
(4) An arbitrator or, in the case of a panel, the chief arbitrator, shall have such power to administer oaths or affirmation and to conduct the proceedings as the rules of court shall provide. At the request of any party to the arbitration, such arbitrator shall issue subpoenas for the attendance of witnesses and the production of books, records, documents, and other evidence and may apply to the court for orders compelling such attendance and production. Subpoenas shall be served and shall be enforceable in the manner provided by law.
(5) 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.
(6) The party having filed for a trial de novo may be assessed the arbitration costs, court costs, and other reasonable costs of the party, including attorney's fees, investigation expenses, and expenses for expert or other testimony or evidence incurred after the arbitration hearing if the judgment upon the trial de novo is not more favorable than the arbitration decision.
History.--s. 3, ch. 87-173; s. 3, ch. 89-31; s. 3, ch. 90-188; s. 3, ch. 93-161; s. 43, ch. 2004-265.
Note.--Former s. 44.303.