Sunday, April 20, 2008

An Immunity Booster!

Florida Statute 44.107 provides immunity for mediators and mediator trainees in court-ordered and noncourt-ordered mediations. In court-ordered mediations the mediator has “judicial immunity in the same manner and to the same extent as a judge.” In noncourt-ordered mediations the mediator has a qualified “immunity from liability arising from the performance of that person's duties while acting within the scope of the mediation function. . . .”

Although there are no Florida cases interpreting the mediator’s judicial immunity, here’s a New Jersey case, Malik v. Ruttenberg, et al., 398 N.J. Super. 489; 942 A.2d 136 [App. Div. 2008] which determined that an arbitrator [substitute mediator for our purposes] cannot be liable for an attorney’s alleged attack on a party during a recess during the proceeding.

The New Jersey Arbitration Act, adopted from the model act developed by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, provides that an arbitrator “is immune from civil liability to the same extent as a judge of a court of this State acting in a judicial capacity”, N.J.S.A. 2A:23B-14.

Remember, in Florida “[t]he mediator shall at all times be in control of the mediation and the procedures to be followed in the mediation” Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.720(c) and Fla. Fam. Law R. Pro. 12.741(b)(4).

It is critical that you read this important case which is the first in the United States to interpret the immunity provision. Also, this article in the New Jersey Law Journal is worth reading as well.

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