The petition for writ of certiorari filed by Sabates
The Alleged Facts
Dr. Sabates, on behalf of his professional association, contracted with IMC to provide ophthalmologic services for IMC patients. An express condition of Sabates' employment was that he was to meet the qualifications and standards for staff membership at International Hospital. Yet despite IMC's assurances that Sabates' application for permanent staff privileges at the hospital would be promptly processed, his temporary privileges were allowed to expire resulting in IMC terminating its contract with Sabates. According to Sabates, none of this was fortuitous, since Miguel Recarey, Jr., who, as president of IMC, entered into the contract with Sabates, also controlled the actions of International Hospital as its president.
The contract between Sabates and IMC provided that "all disputes and claims arising in connection with this Agreement" shall be settled by arbitration. Acknowledging that his claims of breach of contract and fraud against IMC were properly the subject of arbitration, Sabates initiated arbitration proceedings as to these claims. Pertinent here, Sabates' lawsuit charged International Hospital with interfering with his contract with IMC and charged all three defendants with a violation of the Florida Antitrust Act of 1980, Ch. 542, Fla. Stat., and civil theft in violation of Section 812.014, Florida Statutes (1981).
The Antitrust Claim
The well-recognized policy favoring the enforcement of agreements to arbitrate, see, e.g., William Passalacqua Builders, Inc., v. Mayfair House Ass'n, 395 So.2d 1171 (Fla. 4th DCA 1981) (on rehearing); Lapidus v. Arlen Beach Condominium Ass'n, 394 So.2d 1102 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981); Raymond, James & Associates, Inc. v. Maves, 384 So.2d 716 (Fla. 2d DCA 1980); Merkle v. Rice Construction Co., 271 So.2d 220 (Fla. 2d DCA), cert. denied, 274 So.2d 234 (Fla. 1973), is not without its exceptions. Thus, where legislation clearly mandates that the dispute be resolved in a judicial forum, the policy favoring
Although the Florida Antitrust Act of 1980, unlike the Florida Securities Act, compare § 542.30, Fla. Stat. (1981), with § 517.241(2)-(4), Fla. Stat. (1981), contains no express provision preserving the right to bring an action in the courts, nonetheless, because cases involving antitrust violations are generally considered to be "of a character inappropriate for enforcement by arbitration," American Safety Equipment Corp. v. J.P. Maguire & Co., 391 F.2d 821, 825 (2d Cir.1968), as will be seen, the policy favoring arbitration gives way to the policy that antitrust claims are better suited to be heard in the courts.
To date, no Florida court has addressed the question of the arbitrability of state antitrust claims and, it follows, there is not as yet any announced state policy that such claims should or should not be the subject of arbitration. There is, however, abundant federal authority dealing with the subject of the arbitrability vel non of comparable federal antitrust claims, to which authority we must give "due consideration and great weight" in construing this state's antitrust law. § 542.32, Fla. Stat. (1981). See § 542.16, Fla. Stat. (1981) (purpose of Florida Antitrust Act is to complement federal antitrust legislation); Hackett v. Metropolitan General Hosp., 422 So.2d 986 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982).
Under federal law, antitrust claims are held to be not subject to arbitration. See, e.g., Applied Digital Technology, Inc. v. Continental Casualty Co., 576 F.2d 116 (7th Cir.1978); Cobb v. Lewis, 488 F.2d 41 (5th Cir.1974); A. & E. Plastik Pak Co. v. Monsanto Co., 396 F.2d 710 (9th Cir.1968); American Safety Equipment Corp. v. J.P. Maguire & Co., 391 F.2d 821; Hunt v. Mobil Oil Corp., 410 F.Supp. 10 (S.D.N.Y. 1975), aff'd, 550 F.2d 68 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 984, 98 S.Ct. 608, 54 L.Ed.2d 477 (1977). The oft-cited reasons underlying these uniform holdings are (1) because a wide range of public interests are affected by private antitrust claims, a "claim under the antitrust laws is not merely a private matter," American Safety Equipment Corp. v. J.P. Maguire & Co., 391 F.2d at 826; (2) the complexity of the issues and extensiveness of the evidence generally involved in antitrust litigation make resolution of these claims more appropriate for the judicial forum, id. at 827; (3) it is unwise to allow commercial arbitrators, "frequently men drawn for their business expertise ... to determine these issues of great public interest," id.; see Applied Digital Technology, Inc. v. Continental Casualty Co., 576 F.2d 116; Cobb v. Lewis, 488 F.2d 41, 47; and (4) because arbitrators are not bound by rules of law and need not give reasons for their rulings, there is no way to insure consistency of interpretation of statutory law or application of arbitration awards. Aimcee Wholesale Corp. v. Tomar Products, Inc., 21 N.Y.2d 621, 289 N.Y.S.2d 968, 237 N.E.2d 223 (1968). Giving, as we must, "due consideration and great weight" to these authorities, and finding their reasoning to apply with equal force to any antitrust claim brought under our state law, we conclude that Sabates' antitrust claim under the Florida Statute is not a proper subject for arbitration and that such claim must be judicially determined.
The Civil Theft Statute
Other, but less uniform, exceptions to the policy favoring the enforcement of agreements to arbitrate arise where public policy is said to require that a matter in issue be determined by a court. Thus, it has been held that only a court should be permitted to award punitive damages, Garrity v. Lyle Stuart, Inc., 40 N.Y.2d 354, 386 N.Y.S.2d 831, 353 N.E.2d 793 (1976); determine whether an otherwise arbitrable agreement is usurious, compare Durst v. Abrash, 22 A.D.2d 39, 44, 253 N.Y.S.2d 351, 356 (App.Div. 1964), aff'd, 17 N.Y.2d 445, 266 N.Y.S.2d 806, 213 N.E.2d 887 (1965), with Rosenblum v. Steiner, 43 N.Y.2d 896, 898, 403 N.Y.S.2d 716, 718, 374 N.E.2d 610, 611 (1978); or determine rights under an agreement calling for arbitration where distribution of an estate is involved, In re Will of Jacobovitz, 58 Misc.2d 330, 295 N.Y.S.2d 527 (Surrogate Ct. 1968). Similarly, civil rights claims, Wertheim & Co. v. Halpert, 48 N.Y.2d 681, 421 N.Y.S.2d 876, 877, 397 N.E.2d 386 (1979), child custody cases, Nestel v. Nestel, 38 A.D.2d 942, 331 N.Y.S.2d 241 (App.Div. 1972), and criminal violations, Application of Goldmar Hotel Corp., 283 A.D. 935, 130 N.Y.S.2d 615 (App.Div. 1954); 16 Williston on Contracts § 1918 (3d ed. 1976), have been held to fall outside the scope of the arbitration process. See generally Sprinzen v. Nomberg, 46 N.Y.2d 623, 415 N.Y.S.2d 974, 389 N.E.2d 456 (1979). It must be noted, however, that:
It is clear, of course, that the civil theft statute, remedial in its purpose and expansive in its coverage, embodies public policy. However, in contrast to the Antitrust Act, the effect of a violation of the civil theft statute upon the public is, at most, incidental; the issue of what constitutes a violation of the civil theft statute is neither complex nor beyond the ken of arbitrators; and the statute itself contains no indication that the Legislature intended such claims to be within the exclusive province of the courts or, as in the case of the Antitrust Act, that it be interpreted in accordance with an existing body of case law which reserved such matter for the courts. Thus, even though the civil theft statute has at its core a criminal violation and provides for the imposition of treble damages where a violation is found, those factors are hardly sufficient to overcome the parties' agreement to arbitrate or to bring this particular statutory violation within that narrow class of cases that have been excepted from arbitration on public policy grounds. Compare Mendelsohn v. A & D Catering Corp., 119 Misc.2d 581, 464 N.Y.S.2d 331 (Sup.Ct. 1983); National Equipment Rental Ltd. v. American Pecco Corporation, 35 A.D.2d 132, 314 N.Y.S.2d 838 (App.Div. 1970), with Kingswood Management Corp. v. Salzman, 272 A.D. 328, 70 N.Y.S.2d 692 (App.Div. 1947); In re Kramer & Uchitelle, Inc., 288 N.Y. 467, 43 N.E.2d 493 (1942); Application of Goldmar Hotel Corp., 283 A.D. 935, 130 N.Y.S.2d 615. We conclude, therefore, that Sabates' civil theft claim is properly the subject of arbitration.
The Stay of Judicial Proceedings
Section 682.03(3), Florida Statutes (1981), provides that
The issue subject to arbitration between Sabates and IMC is essentially whether IMC breached its contract with Sabates and whether that breach amounted to a violation of the civil theft statute. The question now before us is how, if at all, the resolution of this issue in arbitration will affect the interference with a contractual relationship claim against International Hospital, the civil theft claim against International Hospital and Recarey, and the antitrust claim against IMC, International Hospital and Recarey. If the resolution of the arbitrable claims against IMC will obviate the need for further litigation of the claims pending in court, then it is clear that these latter claims involve an issue subject to arbitration; but if the resolution of the arbitrable claims will have no effect upon the claims pending in court, then the issue in arbitration is severable, and a stay of the claims pending in court is not required. See Post Tensioned Engineering Corp. v. Fairways Plaza Associates, 429 So.2d 1212 (Fla. 3d DCA 1983).
We have little difficulty concluding that the claim against International Hospital for interference is totally independent of the claims against IMC in arbitration. Whether or not IMC is found to have breached its contract with Sabates will in no way relieve the hospital of its potential liability for interfering with such contract. See United Yacht Brokers, Inc. v. Gillespie, 377 So.2d 668 (Fla. 1979); Young v. Pottinger, 340 So.2d 518 (Fla. 2d DCA 1976); Allen v. Leybourne, 190 So.2d 825 (Fla. 3d DCA 1966). By the same reasoning, we arrive at a different result in respect to the civil theft claims against International Hospital and Recarey. If it is found in arbitration that there has been no wrongful appropriation of any property right of Sabates and no violation of the civil theft statute (a result which must follow from a finding that there was no breach of contract, and a result which may follow notwithstanding a finding that the contract was breached), there can be no claim under the civil theft statute against the hospital and Recarey which remains to be adjudicated.
Finally, we conclude that the antitrust claims will necessarily survive any decision in arbitration and are therefore severable from the arbitrable issues. Implicit in this conclusion is that the antitrust claims are not dependent upon the contract claims, so as to require that the antitrust claims be stayed pending the outcome of arbitration.
Accordingly, the petition for writ of certiorari is granted in part and denied in part. The order under review insofar as it referred the antitrust claim against IMC to arbitration is quashed, and the stay of proceedings on that claim and the claim for interference with contractual relations is vacated. In all other respects, the order shall remain in full force and effect.
Certiorari is granted in part; denied in part.