In more complex cases, there has been a growing trend to opt for mediation or arbitration either before litigation commences or immediately after it commences. As any seasoned litigation attorney can attest, the expense and cost of litigation can be enormous. Cases can take several years to complete at the trial level. If there is an appeal, it could take 1-2 additional years. The costs of discovery and attorney fees can also make the case uneconomical inasmuch as prosecution of the claim may not be worth the potential recovery.
Mediation and arbitration, therefore, are often attractive alternatives to traditional judicial litigation. Both mediation and arbitration are forms of alternative dispute resolution. With a mediation, the parties to the lawsuit and their attorneys generally meet with a disinterested, third-party mediator. The purpose of the meeting is to facilitate settlement discussions. The mediator cannot force anybody to settle, though it is her/his job to push things in that direction. From an attorney’s perspective, a mediation is good because it often allows you to gain an insight into what the other attorney thinks about the case, while also fleshing out all of the legal/factual issues. Comments made in mediation are almost always confidential and generally not binding so that there is no harm you suffer down the road for statements made during the mediation in case no settlement is reached. Mediation has become very popular in counties like Saint Charles, Missouri insofar as most civil cases filed come with a mediation consent form.
Arbitration, on the other hand, is the process whereby the parties and their attorneys submit their case to arbitrators, who in turn make a binding decision. It is a binding decision, not a settlement discussion. As such, each side must put on their case as they would in a court proceeding. The differences are primarily procedural. Motion practice, meticulous pleadings, evidentiary rules, and trial procedure rules take a back-seat to the arbitrator’s discretion (judges like mediation because it lightens their docket).
The decision of whether to abandon a judicial resolution of claims is not easy. It depends upon the facts and circumstances of every case. Contact us regarding litigation, arbitration or mediation disputes.