Resolving Civil Litigation Through Alternative Dispute Resolution
There are three types of resolution that can be utilized to avoid litigation in a courtroom: mediation, arbitration, or settlement conference. There are benefits to each alternative, but the overriding benefit is that both parties avoid the formality, time and expense of a court proceeding. Alternative dispute resolution can be an opportunity to preserve relationships with the help of a neutral third party.
In mediation, the outcome of the dispute is entirely up to the parties involved. The mediator simply helps both parties recognize and communicate needs, shared interests, and areas of agreement. The mediator should not issue or impose a solution, but uses communication techniques to facilitate open dialogue between the parties. This type of resolution is particularly suited for parties who would like to preserve and maintain a relationship beyond dispute resolution. For example, family members, friends, neighbors, business partners may benefit from the security of a neutral environment where confidentiality is assured, especially, in cases where emotions have hindered resolution. In addition, parties may get a better outcome since they are crafting their own resolution rather than leaving the decision up to the courts.
In arbitration, the outcome of the dispute is at the sole discretion of an arbitrator. The arbitrator is a neutral party considers the arguments and evidence from both parties and determines the dispute resolution. There are two different arbitration options: binding and nonbinding. In binding arbitration, both parties waive their right to a trial and agree to accept the arbitrator’s decision as a final binding resolution. In nonbinding arbitration, if a party does not like the outcome of a dispute, the right to a trial is reserved. Arbitration is a good solution for parties who need a third party to determine a fair resolution but would like to avoid a court trial. In addition, some people appreciate that arbitration keeps disputes out of the public light since courts are open to the public.
At a settlement conference in Virginia, both parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral third party” who is usually a retired judge, to negotiate possible settlement options. The third party does not make a final decision. The third party is there to help evaluate the arguments and evidence in order to facilitate negotiation between the parties. The conference is generally informal. Depending on the circumstances of the dispute, the settlement conference may be voluntary or mandatory. A mandatory settlement conference is often set close to the trial date. If the settlement conference comes to a mutually agreeable resolution, the attorneys will prepare a formal settlement agreement that will be signed by all parties and filed with the court. The case will then be formally dismissed.
Often, the time and expense of a trial can be avoided if both parties agree to at least try alternative dispute resolutions. There is an option to suit the needs of everyone involved, and an experienced negotiation attorney can help guide you to the appropriate forum for your matter. Call our office if you would like to resolve a civil dispute outside of a courtroom.
Ryan C. Young | Civil Litigation Attorney | Richmond, Virginia