Whether court-appointed or by the choice of one or both parties, mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can help those involved with contract problems resolve legal disputes in a way that can end up being fair to both sides. At a time when many contracts and legally binding documents require it as the first or only step for parties to solve any problems, it can be easy to forget that ADR provides many benefits as an alternative to litigation in Bucks County.
When It is Required as a First Step
Many contracts now require both parties to engage in mediation and/or arbitration before, or in many cases instead of, any other legal actions. When these documents require proceedings to take place in Pennsylvania, then Bucks County alternate dispute resolution practitioners can help would-be litigants come to a settlement or a compromise. The reasons for including an arbitration clause usually revolve around cost, although some companies also use it to limit the possibility of class action lawsuits which can be costly for defendants while providing relatively small settlements for any plaintiffs.
An Equal and Fair Hearing through Alternative Dispute Resolution
Some of the more prominent examples of arbitration occur in sports, and most recently in Major League Baseball. National League Most Valuable Player Ryan Braun avoided a suspension based on a reportedly positive performance-enhancing drug test in October of 2011 thanks to alternative dispute resolution.
MLB arbitrator Shyam Das noted irregularities in the collection and transportation of Braun’s test sample compared to guidelines negotiated between the league and the player’s union. While Braun is now serving a suspension for an unrelated league violation, both the league and the player knew that both sides would be fairly judged by Das.
Players on rookie contracts may also go into arbitration to set future salaries near the end of their agreement with a team. However, one does not need to be a high-paid athlete to gain help with a matter headed to arbitration . Experienced attorneys with training in alternative dispute resolution can provide the same balanced approach regardless of the publicity regarding a contract, including those negotiated between companies in the Delaware Valley.
ADR Considerations: Confidentiality, Cost and the Clock
By avoiding a costly court battle, parties can save a substantial amount of money and time on expert witnesses, pre-trial motions and the other parts of building a case that may not end in their favor after all.
Numerous state court systems agree that another key benefit is confidentiality. Once documents are entered into the courts record, they may be available to the public absent any protection from the court. Business intelligence including pricing for products and services, contract clauses for non-compete and non-disclosure may also be available to anyone regardless of the parties’ desire to keep internal documentation private.
Since the process is simplified, it also ends much more quickly, often occurring in just over a year versus up to three years according to recent studies of the results and process of arbitration. Much of that comes with the flexibility of arbitrators and mediators who may not be bound by rules of evidence and procedures or protracted hearings.
The Supreme Court and Arbitrage Finality
If an arbitrator says they reviewed the contracts between two parties, the Supreme Court ruled that his or her decisions regarding dispute resolutions are final, according to the majority opinion in Oxford Health Plans, LLC v. Sutter. This continues legal precedents affording outside mediators the final say in making progress after any negotiating impasses.
While some consumer protection activists worry about the use of arbitration, especially on a class-wide basis for large companies, the Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion also points to benefits for parties who opt to avoid trials and lawsuits.
One of those benefits is that alternative dispute resolution can simulate certain portions of a trial and use outside analysts to provide an unbiased estimate of the likely legal outcome based on the facts of the case. Trying to avoid costly rounds of appeals and years in the court room is a great motivator for a compromise that is likely to benefit both sides.
There are complaints, by consumers especially, that they may not get a fair hearing if they or a company are considering alternative dispute resolution. That can be readily mitigated by deciding on an arbitrator with a proven record of providing a fair hearing to parties on both sides.
The other important step is to ensure that one’s contract, whether as part of a business or as a consumer, provides for the protections that one wants. Since an arbitrator is bound by these legal documents, it is important to review them for any potential pitfalls moving forward.
Regardless of where your case is in the legal process and even if there is no requirement for alternative dispute resolution, parties can always agree to engage in alternative dispute resolution rather than continue with costly and time consuming litigation.