Some people assume that in arbitration, the parties just sit and discuss their issue and then the arbitrator makes their decision. Others picture it as each side standing up before the arbitrator and telling their side of the story before the arbitrator rules in favor or one or the other.
In fact, relevant witnesses may be subpoenaed by the arbitrator. If a witness is unable to appear at the arbitration, they may need to provide a deposition that would be entered as evidence in the arbitration. Witnesses are typically sworn in and testify under oath.
Arbitrators can also subpoena evidence like documents and records. They can enforce those subpoenas much as a judge would in a civil trial.
Confidentiality and discovery
If there’s a potential issue of confidentiality with certain evidence – for example, if it involves business information that one or both parties wanted to protect – the arbitrator can also issue a protective order to prohibit disclosure of the information. One of the benefits of arbitration over going to court is that it’s easier to maintain confidentiality in arbitration.
The process of “discovery” is often part of arbitration — just as it is a civil case. That’s where both sides have a chance to see what evidence the other side has so that they can better present their case and respond to the other party’s evidence and claims.
The point of this basic review is that arbitration is nothing to be taken lightly – especially if you’re facing a more powerful, well-funded party. Those who participate in it in our state are subject to Florida arbitration laws as well as other regulations. Arbitration is typically more informal and expedient and less expensive than settling a matter in court. Nonetheless, it’s important to learn as much about it as possible and to understand how it works and what to expect before you begin.