Construction Litigation and Arbitration
Unfortunately, formal legal proceedings may be necessary to prosecute claims or defend against the claims of another.
Formal Legal Proceedings
If the parties’ contract has a provision requiring arbitration, or if the parties agree to participate in arbitration, the case will be decided by one or more arbitrators—the “privatized” equivalent of judges who are often lawyers, retired judges, or non-legal experts. Otherwise your case will be litigation filed through a local county, circuit, or district court and decided by elected judges or selected juries. Both proceedings have their advantages and disadvantages.
In litigation, the proceedings are governed by state or federal rules, have relatively low filing and administrative costs, allow thorough discovery (questioning under oath and exchange of documents), allow objections to evidence, and often take a very long time—especially as the judicial systems get more and more backed up. The results of litigation may sometimes be challenged by rehearing or the appeals process. After a final judgment, state or federal rules set forth tools available for the prevailing party to collect on the judgment.
Arbitrations are often (although not always) run through administrative organizations such as the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Our very own Steve Marlowe regularly acts as an arbitrator for construction and business law cases through AAA.
Arbitration proceedings are much less formal than litigation. The parties have the benefit of selecting (or at least heavily influencing the selection of) the arbitrator or arbitrators who will preside over their case. One of the great advantages is that the parties can select an arbitrator with expertise in construction law, whereas sometimes judges have very little experience or knowledge of construction law before hearing a case.
Florida law sets forth some basic rules governing arbitrations and arbitrators, and Arbitrators are otherwise free to decide procedural or administrative details, often based on the desires of the parties. Organizations like AAA set forth customized rules and procedures governing cases according to the type of case and the amount of money in controversy. Sometimes in arbitration discovery is limited or eliminated altogether. Arbitrations usually have higher filing and administrative costs (the parties are, essentially, paying for the services of a judge to decide their case), but almost always take very little time compared to litigation.
Arbitration proceedings culminate in a final hearing—the arbitration equivalent of a trial—where witness testimony and documentary evidence are presented to the arbitrator or arbitrators, who subsequently issue a final award with their ruling on the case. As the process is less formal, usually objections to evidence are not entertained at a final hearing. Arbitrations may be non-binding (in which case the parties can then litigate the dispute) or binding (in which case there are very few circumstances where an arbitration decision may be overturned). A final award is then filed in state or federal court, where it is made a judgment and the prevailing party may, if necessary, use the collection tools available in such court to collect on the judgment.
Marlowe McNabb Machnik, P.A. can advise you as to the benefits of litigation and arbitration in the context of the construction industry, initiate a construction lawsuit or arbitration claim, or defend you against a construction lawsuit or arbitration claim. We represent you from the initial stages all the way through a trial or final hearing, and if necessary, beyond into the collections process.
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