Gren v. Gren

Gren v. Gren, --- So.3d ---, 2014 WL 51640 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014)

This case involved a dispute between the ex-wife of a decedent and his surviving spouse who was serving as his Successor Trustee.  Since there was a question regarding the construction of the Trust, the ex-wife filed a Petition for Construction of Trust Instrument to seek clarity from the court.  Since the Trust had a provision requiring arbitration, the trial court granted a Motion filed by the Successor Trustee to compel arbitration.

The ex-wife failed to take any action for six months following the court order compelling arbitration, so the Successor Trustee sought to dismiss her lawsuit, claiming that the ex-wife's failure to arbitrate had prevented her from filing tax returns and distributing assets.  The ex-wife responded that any question of delay in her giving notice of arbitration was a question of fact to be determined by the arbitrator, not the trial court.  

The Appellate Court agreed with the ex-wife.  It noted that in deciding a motion to compel arbitration, a trial court is limited to three issues: (1) whether a valid written agreement to arbitrate exists; (2) whether an arbitrable issue exists; and (3) whether the right to arbitration was waived.  Once those issues are determined, the court should not permit the parties to litigate the dispute in the courts instead of proceeding by arbitration as agreed.  Since the timeliness of a demand for arbitration was a fact question, it should be reserved for an arbitrator, not a judge.  

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