Most parties to a lawsuit want their “day in court.” But does that need to occur in a courtroom, and in front of a jury? For the right case, there is a less time-consuming and far less expensive alternative to trial that can make sense — binding arbitration. With arbitration, the parties refer their disputes to an impartial third person — an arbitrator — for a decision based on the evidence and arguments presented before the arbitrator. In other words, a shortened, simplified “trial.”
Our firm recently arbitrated a medical malpractice case. The case was a good candidate for binding arbitration for several reasons: the medical issues involved were straightforward, the damages were limited, and the attorneys and parties were able to agree on the arbitration terms. We gave brief opening statements and closing arguments, and limited testimony to two fact witnesses and one expert per side. The arbitration took one day and we received a binding verdict the following week.
Arbitration has many advantages over a trial:
- Significant time savings;
- Significant cost savings;
- A less formal atmosphere;
- The ability to “set the rules”: choosing the arbitrator(s), deciding the time allotted for arbitration, and setting limitations on discovery and evidentiary rules; and
- The process can be private and confidential.
Some disadvantages include:
- A lack of appeal possibilities;
- The lack of a judge for evidentiary rulings; and
- Arbitrators are often not inclined to provide an explanation for the reasoning behind their decision.
It’s also important that the lawyers cooperate, as there is no judge involved.
Bottom Line: For the right case, binding arbitration may be a good alternative to a traditional jury trial. It gives the parties the chance to tell their side of the story — just not to a jury.
If you would like to know whether your case is a good candidate for arbitration, please contact us. We’re here to help.