Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Review of Arbitration Awards and Prejudgment Interest

In The Keyes Company v. Spencer (4D07-3837), the Fourth District discussed the review of arbitration awards.

With respect to the award of attorney’s fees to Spencer, Spencer waived her right to have the court modify the arbitration award and award fees. She had three opportunities to seek modification or clarification of the award...She filed a timely motion to correct the award in which she asked the arbitrator to award her prevailing party fees and costs. § 682.10, Fla. Stat. (2007). The arbitrator denied that motion on the ground that he had properly decided those issues. The trial court then confirmed the award, and Spencer did not file motions to vacate or modify the award within ninety days of its entry, as required by sections 682.13(2) and 682.14(1), Florida Statutes (2007). As a result, the trial court erred in later granting Spencer fees against appellant Keyes. We reverse that portion of the award.

As this court has explained, “[r]eview of arbitration proceedings is extremely limited. A high degree of conclusiveness attaches to an arbitration award because the parties themselves have chosen to go this route in order to avoid the expense and delay of litigation.” Davenport v. Dimitrijevic, 857 So. 2d 957, 961 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003) (citations omitted).


On cross-appeal, we also reverse the denial of prejudgment interest to Spencer.

Spencer argues that she is entitled to interest on the amount of the deposit that she recovered in the arbitration award from the date of the arbitration award, which was September 5, 2006. We agree. The law governing this issue was set out in Okun v. Litwin Securities, Inc., 652 So. 2d 387, 388-89 (Fla. 3d DCA 1995), as follows:

Prejudgment interest must be awarded, where the claim is liquidated, from the date when payment of the claim is due. Metropolitan Dade County v. Bouterse, Perez, & Fabregas Architects, Inc., 463 So. 2d 526 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985). An arbitration award is akin to a verdict, see U.S.A.A. v. Smith, 527 So. 2d 281 (Fla. 1st DCA 1988), and once an arbitration award is confirmed by the court it becomes, like a verdict, the judgment of that court and interest on that judgment runs from date of its entry until satisfaction of same. The trial court may not award interest which predates an arbitration award. . . . The arbitration award liquidated the amount owed the Okuns and Braunstein from the date of its entry until that award was reduced to judgment, thus prejudgment interest was not only proper but was required.

Accordingly, we hold the trial court erred in its order denying Spencer prejudgment interest as well as in its award of attorney’s fees to Spencer. We reverse as to those issues and affirm as to all other issues raised.


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