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Fourth DCA: Illegality of Contract Must be Considered

July 11, 2014

In Jupiter Medical Center, Inc. v. Visiting Nurse Association of Florida (full case here), the Appellant brought the action to vacate an arbitral award on the ground that it was based on an illegal contract.  The trial court did not address the issues of the contract’s legality, and entered an order enforcing the arbitral award.  The Fourth District Court reversed and remanded the decision of the trial court, because Florida courts cannot enforce an illegal contract.

It was argued that because the parties had gone through arbitration, section 682.13(1) of the Florida Statutes, provided the only five circumstances under which a court will vacate an arbitral award–and the list does not include illegality.  The Fourth District Court made it clear that while an arbitrator may not be able to determine that a contract is illegal, an arbitrator cannot order a party to perform an illegal act.  Therefore, the analysis of the arbitral award on a contract that is allegedly illegal should be treated no differently.

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