Spotlight: Tom DeBari

By Kelly K. James


Tom DeBariTom DeBari is the only neutral at Miles who includes a quote by Voltaire on his bio: “I’ve been ruined but twice in my life … Once when I lost a lawsuit and once when I won.”


The Florida-based mediator and arbitrator has found that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is not only a better option than traditional litigation but a better fit for his personality as well.


The Benefits of Mediation

“One of the great benefits of the mediation solution is that it eliminates both the possibility of a devastating loss as well as the disappointment of an expensive victory,” says Tom. “Mediation provides a proven framework for the dignified, efficient, and complete resolution of most legal and business matters. A mediation conference affords parties the opportunity, perhaps the only opportunity, to engage in dialogue, not diatribe; to inform rather than interrogate, and to create a mutually acceptable solution to their dispute.”


Today his practice is “99 percent mediation and arbitration,” says Tom. “Mediation makes up about 80 percent of that and arbitration, 20 percent. With the COVID backlog, judges have been ordering more and more cases to arbitration, so I’ve been responsive to the courts’ needs and the client needs.” While he spends more time mediating, he enjoys both mediating and arbitrating (and sometimes does both with the same case when conducting hybrid mediation/arbitration, as you’ll see below.)


More Than One ADR Option

Tom admits he prefers ADR to traditional litigation. “Having practiced for 31 years concurrently, I find that I’m more effective being in the guy in the middle of the controversy trying to see it from both side and trying to see a solution,” he says. “I am an advocate for both sides and think I perceive both sides of the issue and gravitate toward that paradigm.”


Tom is also known for his efficiency as a neutral, often booking and handling two cases in a day. “It’s largely the type of cases I do — I do a significant amount of automotive negligence and premises liability, and in those cases, the issues are pretty well-known and a question of filling in the blanks and getting opening statements and putting your model into practice from the first few moments,” he says. “I tell the parties that we are here for as long as you need me, but I think people hire me for these cases because they feel I am thorough and efficient with them. I think that I can strike a balance with them and make some hay and get to the bottom of the issues without taking all day.”


In addition to auto negligence and premises liability cases, Tom also handles construction cases, medical malpractice, and business and commercial litigation. “I’m known for doing auto cases, but I also have a background in all of these areas,” he says.


Tom also sometimes does combined mediation/arbitration, or hybrid mediation/arbitration. With hybrid mediation/arbitration, parties mediate the case first; if it doesn’t settle at mediation, he then arbitrates the case and makes an award. This ensures that the parties will have a resolution at the end of the day if mediation fails.


Family Man and Music Man

Away from his ADR work, Tom enjoys spending time with his three children — Matt, 28, Katie, 26, and Spencer, 14 — and his two grandchildren, Dominco, 2 and a half, and Noemi, 7 months. He also plays guitar, sings, and writes music in the vein of James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen.


Settlement May Not Be the Goal

Tom points out that even if a case doesn’t settle at mediation, going through the process can move it in that direction. “Sometimes the best thing you can do is stay out of the way of the process and not put the goal of settlement above giving the parties a good, solid mediation experience,” he says.


“Leave the case better than you found it,” he adds. “As Hippocrates said, ‘do no harm.’ Some of the best mediation work I’ve ever down did not necessarily result in resolving the case on mediation day but did move the case toward eventual settlement.”




Miles Mediation & Arbitration is shaping the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) industry with our comprehensive professional services model that combines the expertise of our highly skilled, diverse panel of neutrals with an unparalleled level of client support to guide and empower parties to fair, timely, and cost-effective resolution regardless of case size, specialization, or complexity. For more information, please call 888-305-3553 or email